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Zero Hour (part 6)

Tinamou watched as Judash studied the ground before them. For the past two weeks they had been tracking Zerosta across this barren wasteland. She still didn’t know how he had made it this far, but obviously Zerosta was more capable than she first thought. What really surprised her though was Judash’ unerring ability to follow the smallest sign in the land. It all seemed the same to her, yet he was able to note with certainty which path Zerosta took. Perhaps it just seemed that way. To her they had taken a straight path north. The odds were in their favor that Zerosta took the same path.

A few minutes later Judash stood up. He signaled Tinamou and Jaxes over to his side.

 

From their vantage point to the north, Stantion shifted. He could see the movement below. Tec had been right. There was someone else down there. He began to lift his weapon when he felt the hand on his shoulder. Glancing up, he found himself staring at Tec.

“No Stantion. We will go down and talk to them. At least I will talk to them. You will watch. Pay attention and you may learn something. Perhaps you will even see something that I missed.”

As Stantion rose to his feet, Tec headed across killing field towards the three. He noticed how they flinched at the sudden appearance of the Kin. At least the two humans did. The third only appeared to flinch. Tec smiled to himself. Judash was more adept at hiding his feelings than he had previously given credit for. This would be interesting.

 

Tinamou watched with growing trepidation as the two figures approached from the north. She couldn’t put a finger on it, but something was screaming at her, telling her to flee quickly. But it was already too late. The whole trip up, she had developed a bad feeling about Judash. Something was wrong and she instinctively felt the hunt for Zerosta was wrong, yet she never spoke up. Now this…She feared she had walked into a viper’s pit. She also understood that if her feelings were correct, fleeing would be the worst thing she could do. So, she stood her ground and promised to keep her eyes and ears open. Whatever was going on, she would figure it out. Moments later the two had arrived.

“Hello there strangers. I’m Tec. This is my son Stantion. What brings you this way?”

“Part legend, part myth brings us Tec. Have you ever heard of the travelling man? Well, these two are from his village. We are following his trail. He came into the wasteland after his village was attacked. I helped these two flee their captives and here we are. My name is Judash. This is Jaxes, and this Tinamou.”

As Judash introduced each, he made a small gesture to each of his companions. Tec nodded to each in turn.

“It seems we are not far behind him…perhaps less than a day. He seems to have lain in the dirt here for a while, and then for some reason diverted his direction and headed west. I was about to tell my companions when you appeared.”

“You’re lucky we found you and not some of the roving bands of killer men. As you can see from those two unfortunates they are in the area.”

Tec motioned towards the bodies of the two he had killed less than a day before. He knew it. There was another human down here! Better yet, it was the prophesized one. He had been within his sights and then vanished! Damn all the gods that would allow such an occurrence. He couldn’t understand how the travelling man avoided detection the day before, especially where he had walked so very close to him, yet he did. However, the gods seemed to favor him again. Judash would help them track down this harbinger of death and they would finally be free of the wicked prophesy. Man will never rise. The Kin and the Others will rule this land.

“Perhaps we can be of service. You will need someone to help in your search. We know the land. We can defend against the rovers. We will help you find this man.”

Judash stared for a minute at the Kin. What were they planning? He knew Tec. He had dealt with him on many an occasion, but he couldn’t figure out why he spun that tail of rovers. To Judash it was obvious that Tec himself had killed those two humans. But of course! He couldn’t let the humans with Judash know this. He wanted to find the travelling man as well. He wanted his head too. Perhaps working together, they could kill him? It would be worth working with Tec again just on the outside chance of success.

“We would greatly appreciate the help. Wouldn’t we?”

The last half he addressed to Tinamou and Jaxes. Both readily agreed, though Tinamou still kept her worries to herself.

 

~~~

From a rise to the south, Marcant’ny watched as his brother crouched, examining the ground. The two humans still travelled with him. Those fools! They had believed the story handed to them by Judash. They truly thought he was their friend. He wasn’t. The name should have warned them, but sadly, it seemed so much of their own history was forgotten by man.

Judash was deviously cunning. It was his intelligence, more than brute strength that he employed when dealing with humans. Always with the same goal in mind: to find the travelling man and kill him. Marcant’ny shuddered to think of how many times the ruse had worked. Still, it hadn’t produced the travelling man, though somehow Marcant’ny knew this time would be different.

He had just come to the conclusion that he must kill Judash. He must free those humans with him before they found the prophesized one. But would the humans believe he was their savior? Would they see him as an Other and think that he was there to bring them back, rather than save them? He didn’t know, but he had to try. It was as simple as that. He must give the travelling man a chance to fulfill his destiny. But then the opportunity was gone. Or, more precisely, it never existed and perhaps the deities were watching out for him.

As he started to rise, intent on making a mad killing rush at his brother, the two Kin approached from the north. He would never get close before they put a bullet through his heart. So, Marcant’ny crouched down and continued his vigil. Eventually he would get a chance to avert catastrophy.

 

~~~~

 

When Zero awoke, he found himself on the outskirts of what remained of a town. Not a single building still stood, though the remnants could be seen all around. Slowly he wandered through the rubble, not really knowing just what he was looking for. Eventually he came to a hillside, where half-way up he noticed a large opening. Quickly he ascended until he stood before a huge cavern. Somehow he knew what he was looking for was inside, so, with not a small amount of fear he slowly entered.

Light seemed to enter the cavern from two locations. One, the entrance he stood in, and the other somewhere high above, perhaps on the plateau of the hill. Slowly Zero entered, letting his eyes grow accustomed to the limited light.

He walked for what seemed like hours, yet was perhaps closer to fifteen minutes when he became aware of eyes watching him. He froze in place, only his eyes glancing left and right, searching for his watcher, yet nothing appeared.

“Silly human and your feeble magic! What brings you to this place? Speak up now. I know you are there! I need not see you to be able to crush you where you stand.”

Zero’s jaw dropped! What did it mean by magic? Why would it crush him? He barely could stammer one word out, but then he regained some of his composure.

“Magic? I don’t know what you are talking about. Magic doesn’t exist.”

“Of course magic exists! I just told you that you were using it, right? Magic has always existed, though few understood what it really is. It is the ability of humans, and some other creatures, to affect the world around them, using only their minds. You are doing so right now, making yourself invisible. At least you are invisible to eyes. I can tell you are there because I smell you, and I hear your heart beat. Now why are you here?”

Zero’s heart beat faster. What was this creature that could hear his heart beating? Not knowing what else to do, he answered the question.

“My grandfather told me to come to this land. He said I must find a way to free my people from their enslavement. I want to free them. I want to kill all the Others, to prevent them from ever threatening my people again.”

“Well, which is it? Do you wish to free your people, or are you more concerned with killing the Others?”

“I can’t succeed at one without accomplishing the other. If I don’t kill the Others, they will just enslave my people again. By killing them, I save my people.”

“Perhaps. What if I told you there were weapons buried in this hill? Weapons that are like the ones which created the firestorms that swept over this land? Would you use these weapons against the Others? Would you use them knowing that in doing so you would also be killing your own people? After all, death is a release from slavery. That would succeed in achieving the goals you’ve stated. It would also fulfill the prophecy you mentioned. It does state the travelling man will be like the firestorms. That he will end all that was. Is that what you wish?”

Zero stood horrified. “No. I don’t want to destroy everything! I just want freedom for my people. Is that a bad thing? How else can I guarantee their freedom?”

“Just because someone is born as one thing does not mean they will be that thing. Are all humans alike? Do all humans agree on everything? Do you all react the same way? No. You are individuals. You have your own wants and desires. Every other inhabitant of this planet are the same way. They have their desires. They have their fears. Perhaps some even have goals similar to your own.”

“Yes, it is important to stand strong in the face of oppression! Yes, freedom is a precious right. Yet, it is a right of everyone, not just humans. You must not only stand fast against aggression. You must be willing and able to accept help from wherever it may come, even if it is from an Other. Otherwise you are no better than they are. You become what you hate the most. You become despotic. Do you understand?”

“I don’t know. It sort of makes sense, but I have never met an Other that felt this way. They’ve all attacked with such ferocity.”

“Think of it this way, they too have heard the prophecy. They fear it means their annihilation. If you back a dog up against a wall, with no chance of escape, it will fight with all it has. It will fight to the death, even knowing it will die. Just like you are feeling that you should fight to the death. The Others will be no different. If you give them no opportunity to retreat, then they will act as you see. They will fight, knowing no other choice is available. More blood will be shed that way. More death will follow. Perhaps it would lead to the end that the Others fear? Or perhaps, by giving that opportunity to retreat, you show another option. One that may lead to cooperation and mutual survival. You would forever end wars by providing a glimpse into a different existence. You would deliver freedom to all.”

“I think I understand. It still does not change things. I must free my people. Whatever the cost, I will pay so long as they are free.”

“I do not ask you to do that, chosen one. I only ask that you do not lead us all to destruction. I see the beginning of wisdom in you. I see much potential. You bring hope for brighter days. I will help you. Together, perhaps we will usher in a golden age; one where all living creatures can be free.”

With that, the speaker stepped forth into the feeble light. Zero felt his eyes widen to unbelievable proportions as his mind tried to come to grips with what stood before him.

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Posted by on April 13, 2011 in stories

 

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Zero Hour (part 5)

For more than two weeks he had wandered this desolate land that still, surprisingly, held life. He felt no closer to his destination. Sure, he learned the wasteland was not a certain death, though for an unwary traveler, it should have been.

The first several days, as he relied on the food and water he carried from the south, Zero saw very little. There were signs of animals passing through the scrub, and across the small creeks, yet he could not make himself test the water. He could not stand trying to eat the tiny plants. Eventually he would have to, yet what if the first one he tried turned out poisonous? So, he disdained the local vegetation and his meager supplies continued to dwindle.

He also felt certain he was not alone. A furtive sound here, a small scent there, it all led to his belief that the wasteland was not death for humans. At least it wasn’t if you were careful. So, at each sign he would attempt to trace the source. Many times he tried and failed until finally, on the fourth day when his supplies finally gave out, he met his first wastelander. It was a young boy, probably no older than ten, yet with a haunted look in his eyes. Even now Zero was not sure why the boy trusted him enough to stop and talk. But he did. In truth it was quite fortuitous for Zero. Within minutes, a storm sprang out of the north, and had it not been for the boy knowing where shelter could be found, he would have spent a night drenched to the bone. As it was, they spent a cold night shivering beneath the remnants of some building.

When Zero made to start a fire, the boy frantically stopped him, warning of the dangers it would attract. He claimed that many strange creatures wandered the lands now; Creatures seemingly come alive from myth.  Some had no precedence. Yet, they all lived now. It was claimed the firestorm created many, and woke the others from their ancient slumber. The boy couldn’t be sure, but he certainly knew better than to look for trouble. If the creatures weren’t bad enough, the hunters were. No one saw the hunters. No one knew what they looked like, but they knew they were there. Almost daily one could find the remains of someone foolish enough to have come across them. The boy couldn’t figure out how Zero had not seen any.

They talked deep into the night, the boy relating all he knew about the land. How to tell if the plant you were thinking of eating was poisonous or not. How to avoid the more dangerous predators out there. He even gave advice on how to approach others like him. It was probably because of the way Zero had made his earlier approaches that the other refugees avoided him. Zero learned a lot, yet the boy could not tell him what he needed to know. He knew of no weapon that could help his people. He knew of no way to free them. The boy seemed to find it unfathomable that people would group together like that. They would become a big target for the hunters. It was always safer to remain alone and mobile.

Part of what the boy said made sense. Sure, the hunters would find them easier if they were in a community, but isn’t it true that safety lies in numbers? The more people in the community, the harder it would be for the hunters to overcome the defenses. Zero tried to explain this to the boy, but he was adamant about the mistake it was. Nothing would convince him otherwise.

When Zero woke the next morning, the storm had passed. The sun had just broken over the horizon and promised a warm, dry day. The boy was gone, vanished as if he never existed. Zero wasn’t surprised.

Since then, he followed the boy’s advice and found other survivors more receptive of him. Slowly he learned more and more about the land that he traveled through. He continued north, never really knowing where he was heading.

He stopped for a moment to take a small drink from his water skin. As he lowered it from his lips, he caught sight of a couple off in the distance. Slowly he headed towards them, following the boys advice again. Perhaps they would know what he needed. As he grew closer, he noticed the couple watching him. He was just about to raise his hand in greeting when the shot rang out. Without thinking, he dropped to the ground looking for somewhere to hide, though he knew it useless. He was in the middle of a killing field. The land stretched out for miles with nothing to break the monotony of the landscape.

~~~

“Nice shooting Tec. You got both of them with one shot. I never could have done that!”

Stantion couldn’t hide the awe from his voice. This was only his second foray into the wasteland hunting. Humans were such easy prey. Stantion couldn’t figure out why the elders were all afraid of them, but it was true. A deep-seeded fear lay within his entire people. All humans needed to die, and Stantion was now helping with that. Tec, his father and mentor, slowly lowered his rifle.

“Did you see where the other one went? He was approaching from the south, yet as soon as I took the shot on the others, he vanished.”

“What other one? I only saw the two.”

“You weren’t looking like I told you. You must learn to look Stantion. I’m telling you, there was a third human down there, approaching the others. Come on. We’ll find him soon enough. We have to make sure those two are dead. He must be cowering in a fold in the land.”

“But Tec…they are dead! You took them both out with one shot to the head. No one can survive that. Why must we go down there? We’d be exposed to counter-fire.”

Tec shook his head and lightly smacked Stantion in the back of his head.

“Humans don’t use weapons any more. They think that by forsaking weaponry of all kind, they will not be killed. It is a foolish wish, though one that serves us here. We will not face any danger. We must make sure they are dead though. Either could be the traveling man. If we were to leave without being certain of his death, then we would never know if the prophecy was averted. Plus, I want to know where that other human went.”

Slowly Tec moved forward towards his kill, eyes scanning all around for the slightest bit of movement. After a moment, Stantion followed, muttering to himself about his father seeing things.

~~~

Zero lay completely still on the rocky ground. He watched as the two hunters slowly walked out of the west, towards him. He was stunned. They weren’t Others, like he assumed they would be. They appeared completely human, though the closer they came, the less certain of this he became. There was something different about them. Some simple thing, yet vastly important, that made them different from all the people he knew. These must be the dreaded hunters of whom the boy warned him. Worse yet, they were walking straight towards him, obviously on their way to make sure of their kills. There would be no way they wouldn’t see him. What would happen when they did?

Zero remained as still and silent as he believed possible. He knew if he ran, they would just shoot him down. What could he do? Then, just when he felt it inevitable they would see him, they inexplicably stepped right by. They continued the short distance to the couple, knelt to examine them, and then stood again. The taller of the two glanced back towards where Zero lay. Certainly he would see him now, Zero thought. He didn’t though. With a shrug of his shoulders, he turned away and the two headed off to the north. The direction Zero had been going.

Zero lay on the ground not moving an inch as he watched the hunters depart. He watched till they were nothing but specks on the horizon, and then watched some more. Eventually, hours after they left, he slowly crept over to the couple. They were dead as he knew they would be. What were their names? Who were they? Why were they killed? The questions haunted Zero, yet no answers revealed themselves.

Finally, as dusk was beginning to settle over the land, Zero headed off, not north like he had been travelling, but east. It seemed the safest direction for the time being, since he had no desire to meet up with the hunters. He walked long into the night before finally stopping beneath the tattered remnants of a sign that seemed to read Lo  Al mo .

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in stories

 

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Mystic Sight Denied (XXIV)

"Walhalla" (1896) by Max Brückner.

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Mystic Sight Denied

Succumbing to the mediocrity of conformity,
meaning in life seems to fade into obscurity.
For in the desire to mesh beliefs
into one, to provide common relief,
we erase the beauty held in individuality.

We strive for commonality to promote peace.
A glorious goal of heartfelt release,
thinking oneness will create the urge
to unite in the banishment of the killing surge
and the drums of Shangri-la bang, they never cease.

But in the darkness of night, Valhalla shines its light.
The warriors of old return to set things right.
For humanity was never meant to live as one;
by ignoring evil, we deny half of everyone.
So return, join in the fight, and renew mystic sight.

© September 24, 2010 CRF

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2010 in poetry

 

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Upon the Seas (XX)

View from below Point Lonsdale Lighthouse, pas...

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Upon the Seas

I float, watching you there
wading in the shallows.
You seem so comfortable—free,
yet really, your trapped
within your own timidity.
You’re afraid to explore,
to dare the open seas.
So you remain there,
where no challenges exist.
You stay away from life’s
rip-currents, beyond the shoals,
afraid of dangers untold
(which are really glorious to behold).
You limit your experiences,
retard your growth,
and shrivel up
along the cold coast,
while life passes you by
with the dolphins and mackerels.
This life—you could have,
if you just swam out.
But you don’t…
and I watch, as I float off
to distant lands.

© September 20, 2010 CRF

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2010 in poetry

 

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One by One They Fall (X)

Death found an author writing his life.. Desig...

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One by One They Fall

The call of the day
holds sway, o’er the masses;
wrapping them up
within the discordant arms
of contradictory desires.
Freedom for all
as long as it’s how I say.
Judge not—lest ye be judged
or…if you think like me.

I’m right…you’re wrong,
and never shall the two meet.
Contrary beliefs cannot exist,
in the world we envision.
For all must be one,
all must agree;
when we become androids,
devoid of all emotions,
that is when unity and peace
shall be found.
For it is human nature
that connects desire and hate;
war and peace; life and death.

If we conquer one—we conquer all.
Like dominos they fall, knocking down
our humanity in a deluge of conformity.
And when the smoke settles,
peace reigns! Yet in our emotionless state,
we do not understand, just why
we don’t appreciate it.

© September 10, 2010 CRF

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2010 in poetry

 

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What’s Said is Done (VII)

What’s Said is Done

They say that our past, is just that;
over, done with, forgotten like yesterday’s trash.
Yet, do they ever think, could they ever know,
what it’s like—to be ridiculed so mercilessly?
Have they ever woken each morning,
drenched in a cold sweat, shaking in fear
of what the day will bring? Have they ever
left their house knowing—torment
was just a block away?
I doubt it. I doubt they know how it feels,
to be the brunt of a verbal barrage,
to be—the target you tossed
your oral napalm towards.
And it stuck…oh, how it stuck
melting into me; burning all
till I felt I had nothing
left to share. It burned
scars into me, that you could not see,
yet I feel them still. Your words,
such torturous intent, have left
a lasting impression upon my soul,
that, no matter how much time passes,
will never be forgotten. I become
just one more casualty
of life’s Word War.

© September 7, 2010 CRF

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2010 in poetry

 

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The Beast (V)

The Beast

Every once in a while
the beast, that resides
within me, awakens;
licks his lips…
bares his snaggle-toothed grin;
preparing to unleash
an unholy torrent
of pain and anguish
on the unsuspecting masses.
And though I try
to keep him chained
and chloroformed,
to spare others of his venom.
I never really know
just what will rouse him
from his dreamless slumber.
I never, ever know what it is,
that will next set him off.
And so—when the unimaginable occurs,
and he rears up, to strike
fear into his victims,
I do my best
to mitigate the damage…
do what I can to soothe him
before he can draw first blood;
before he draws last blood!
For, regardless of what awoke him,
it is I that would be to blame,
were I to do nothing,
letting him run rampant;
were I to let him have free rein.

© September 5, 2010 CRF

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2010 in poetry

 

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