The Prerequisites for Common Courtesy

It seems that in today’s world, common courtesy is a distant memory. It’s like the world has decided that “zero fucks given” is how every aspect of life should go. And while it might apply to some areas, treating people with a little respect isn’t one of them. So I’m going to make a list of the prerequisites for common courtesy.

  1. You Like Them – Um. No. People dislike each other for all kinds of reasons. Maybe they smell weird, or have an annoying voice, they’re too clingy, or just boring. Hell…they could have flirted with your man/woman. Anything can be the reason you don’t like someone or they don’t like you. That doesn’t mean either of you are bad people. It doesn’t mean you automatically have the right to treat them with disrespect. And it certainly doesn’t mean you have the right to be downright rude to them. I’m not saying you have to invite them over for your next big party, or the movies, or even try to hold a conversation with them, but you can at least not be a big fucking jerk. If you absolutely have to see them at work or school or social gatherings, just don’t talk to them. Don’t ignore them completely because that’s seriously rude. But you don’t have to engage them. Just enjoy the company of the others. If you can’t, find a way out of the situation.
  2. You Are Having a Good Day – Really? This isn’t one either. We all have bad days. Taking it out on someone else isn’t going to make it any better. In fact, being polite and getting it in return can give you a small boost. Maybe you think people will just get that you’re having a bad day, but that’s fucking stupid. You don’t want to be treated rudely just because someone stepped in dog shit that morning. So don’t do it to them.
  3. You Care What People Think of You – NOPE. Okay, first of all…yes you do. I wish people would stop pretending they don’t give two shits about their reputation. It’s one thing to not care about opinions on how you should live your life. It’s another to not care about how you are perceived. Basically, we all think we’re good people, and we want others to think the same. And most of us want to be liked. (Unfortunately, not everyone will like us.) Being a jerk to someone doesn’t just make you look bad, it makes you look stupid. As humans we are driven to be part of a pack. That pack can’t function if everyone walks around treating each other like a bunch of pet rocks that peed on the floor. That’s pretty much why things are so fucked up in the world. Let’s not add to it, okay?
  4. They Have the Same Beliefs – Don’t make me laugh. There is probably no one in this world who believes exactly everything you do. We all have our own views of the world, philosophy, science, religion, and sexual preference. In fact, I’m sure a whole lot of people are reading this right now, shaking their heads. For shame! Who the hell cares what someone else believes? (Actually, apparently a lot of people, which is dumb.) Unless they are straight up jerks about it, their beliefs really have nothing to do with you. Let them believe that magical fairies created the world out of unicorn farts. If that makes them happy, then let it be. You don’t have to discuss leprechauns or the measure of gravitational fields. Talk about something you have in common. If there’s nothing, then just smile and move along.
  5. They Have the Same Skin Color and/or Genitalia – /headdesk. This is one of the most unfortunate problems I’ve had to encounter. People hating people, treating them with disrespect, thinking it’s okay to touch them without permission, or taunt them in the streets. And this applies to everyone. Women can be dicks too. I’ve seen it enough to know it’s not just a one-way street. Respect should never have anything to do with what sort of package someone is carrying (unless it’s ticking and they’re wearing a bulletproof vest or something). It should have nothing to do with the color of their skin. And it certainly should have nothing to do with how you were raised. Guess what? You don’t have to be anything like your parents or whoever else raised you. You can be kind to everyone. How cool is that shit?
  6. They Make More or Less Money Than You – Oh honey, no. You aren’t special because you got some magical dream career bringing in the big bucks. You’re special because you’re human, but you are no better than the guy behind the counter at McDonald’s. That guy is working at a job he hates, imagining how many jerk-off customers are going to come into that door and talk to him like he’s some stray that got picked up off the streets of BFE. But just like you he isn’t special just because he’s serving you shitty food for crap wages. He’s no better for having had a tough time. You deserve as much courtesy as he does. So expect it and give it in return regardless of how rich or poor anyone is.
  7. Education – When did this become a reason to treat people like human beings? Folks, not everyone has had the opportunity to go to college or university. We didn’t all have bright, shiny childhoods with everything waiting for us at the end of high school. And even some people had to give up on that one. Maybe they fucked up, or something traumatic changed their lives, or maybe they had one hell of a bad time getting through school and dealing with life. Whatever the reason, it’s none of your concern and treating them like morons isn’t going to make the world any brighter.
  8. They Are a Healthy Weight – Look…in the words of one of my favorite comedians, “LAY OFF MAN, I’M STARVIN’!” Let people eat what they want to eat, or not eat what they don’t want to eat, or skip exercising. Their bodies, their business. You have no right to regulate their diet or act like you’re a fucking fitness trainer. If it’s a health concern, you still don’t get to tell them how they should be doing things. Close friends, family members, and doctors should be the only people voicing concern. No one died and made you god of body shapes, so please keep your trap shut. (And for the sake of all mankind stop asking women if they are pregnant.)
  9. They Are Human Beings – And we have a winner!! This is all you need. I’m not saying you have to kiss ass and pretend to be buddies with every person you meet. I’m not even saying you have to smile at them. Just don’t be a fucking jerk. Say please and thank you. Open the door for a stranger with their hands full. Help the old lady pick up the can she dropped in the grocery store. Let the guy with one item go ahead of you in the checkout line. Treat every single person like you want to be treated. That’s the only prerequisite for common courtesy.

What’s the F@*!ing Point?

“No. Really. What is the fucking point of this?” Ecker rolled up his sleeves. Sleeves that weren’t even real. Digital sleeves on a digital body. He screamed with a digital voice that was muted by the smart-volume feature Social-Lyfe had just introduced.

This whole place was a fucking joke. Fountains and sapphire blue skies. Trees so green they looked like Bob Ross’s happy mistakes. Fake dogs and cats, videos of dogs and cats that had probably been dead for years. City skylines in the distance that you could never actually reach. Fake smiles, fake friends, fake life.

“Half of you don’t even look like that. You’re all just avatars. Digital representations of what you fucking wish you looked like. Meanwhile you sit in your chairs or lie on your beds, wasting your body away. When is the last time any of you even woke up in the real world?”

One Lyfer noticed, rolled her eyes and moved on. Another shook his head. “Yeah, you go do that buddy. Go see what the real world is like. Find out how smart you are when instead of a blocker feature, you have to actually listen to what people say.”

“And the problem with that is?”

“You’ll have to listen to jerk-offs like you.”

“Fuck you,” Ecker said.

“Yep. Blocked.” The guy’s form blurred.

Ecker laughed. “What’s the point though? None of you want to answer. What are we all doing here. Lives, real lives just going on without us while we walk around with all our bullshit opinions about how we think the world should be. How are you gonna sit there bitching about how shitty the world is when you don’t even know what it’s like?”

“I was there about a month ago,” Dina said. She was one of Ecker’s few remaining friends–Social-Lyfe friends that is. He’d never even seen her in person.

He applauded with flamboyant exaggeration. “Good for you, bitch. And how was it?”

She shrugged, unfazed by his abrasive manner. “It was alright. Had coffee, ate a donut, fed a cat.”

“But you didn’t interact with anyone did you?”

Dina shook her head. “Didn’t care too. Most people are assholes.”

“But how do you fucking know?” He started to laugh.

“Maybe because they act like dicks on here just like you, Ecker. You’re not fucking special, so sit down and shut up.”

Block up. She blurred. Ecker sighed. “Fine. I’m outta here. You fucking losers enjoy this fake shit. I’m gonna go live a real life.”

No one looked up.

***

Ecker stared into his real mirror and wondered why the lines on his face looked so deep. He’d been on a proper Social-Lyfe diet, but that wasn’t exactly healthy. Protein and carbohydrates pumped into his stomach. The thought of it made his stomach lurch. His muscles were weak, useless. His eyes sunk into dark circles. “What’s the fucking point?” he whispered to his reflection. He grabbed his old razor and yanked the blade out.

He paused. Hesitated. Held the blade just short of his wrist. “All or nothing, fucker.”

The blade bit deep into his wrist, blood oozing freely into the drain. Ecker dropped the blade and probed the cut. His face contorted with the agonizing pain shooting up his arm. If he didn’t hurry, he’d lose consciousness.

At last he felt it and yanked the microchip from his wrist. Before he tossed it down the drain he studied it. “So long, assholes.”

***

Day ten–Ecker stood in the empty streets of a city once known for never sleeping. The storefronts drooped, doors smashed, glass scattered. He hadn’t seen anyone in days. The last person he saw took off as soon as he called out to him. It was as if the entire world had decided to just live plugged in. That was the smell coming from every building. Dead or half-dead bodies in the process of rot.

“What’s the fucking–”

A sound caught his attention. Something scraping on asphalt. Glass grinding against metal. He swung around to find the source.

It whimpered and ducked its head.

“Hey buddy,” Ecker said as low as he could. “C’mere. I’m not gonna hurt you.”

The dog was almost all bones. Probably couldn’t have run very far if it tried. It wagged its drooping tail hopefully and approached with slow, measured steps.

Ecker knelt down and reached out. “Looks like is just us, buddy.” The brittle fur tickled his fingers. He stroked the stinking heap of bones and sighed. “There is no fucking point. Come on. Let’s get something to eat.”

***

Day fifty six — Turned out that with no one to run the power, the entire system had to shut down. For the dumbasses that stayed, that was a death sentence. From what Ecker could tell, that was over 90% of the population. He packed up some things from the stores. “Ain’t looting if there’s no one here to use it.” He looked down at the dog–now called Bones–and grinned. “Don’t worry. I’ll get you the fucking snacks you like.” The dog panted back looking as if he was smiling.

***

Day seventy nine — The forest chirped with distant crickets. It smelled of fresh rain and rotted wood. Ecker bit off a piece of jerky and tossed the rest to Bones. He grabbed a skunky beer from his backpack and leaned back in his chair. “This is the fucking point.”

But…Why Though?

Disclaimer: This is my totally honest, unfiltered opinion. If you don’t like it, or disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts to the contrary, but I would appreciate a level-headed, logical argument. If you feel the need to tell me off or accuse me of being a bitch, you will be removed and blocked. No exceptions. Also…language warning for those sensitive to profanity.
Lately I’ve been noticing a lot of mainstream anime coming out as live action films, which I have mixed feelings about. It starts with how I feel about mainstream anime as a whole and ends with how I feel about what is being done with those movies.
First of all, I’ve always been interested in the premises for most anime. They’re different, thoughtful, and could create some really great story lines. But…I cannot watch anime. I’ve tried so many times. And everyone tells me, “Oh this one isn’t like the others. You’ll love it.” Know what happens? I can barely sit through one episode. It’s not the stories. Those are great. It’s the cheesy, over-dramatic art. The giant eyes with tiny lines for mouths. The weird-ass squiggly lines that bounce around a character’s head when they’re excited or upset. I just can’t do it. So I’m actually really excited about the fact that a lot of these are being done as live action. I might be able to enjoy the story and characters without being distracted by the shivering animation.
Let me preface by saying this: I don’t have a problem with girls dressing in what they like and feel comfortable in. Hell, I’ll be the first person to tell you that people need to stop worrying about what a girl wears and be more concerned with her education and emotional state.
BUT – I’m hoping that these movies will tone down the over-the-top sexuality of teenage female characters. I’m sure that not all mainstream anime features this type of character, but enough of them do that it’s another reason I can’t watch it. Fifteen-year-old girls are depicted wearing tiny little clothes. Usually they’re in some sort of school uniform or dressed like an underage sailor who couldn’t find a uniform that fit. That’s not it though. In these anime shows, the girls aren’t just wearing skimpy outfits, the main camera focus is almost always on the exposed area of the girls’ bodies. It’s enough to know that the artists/writers are actively showing off the tantalizing parts of a young girl’s body. It’s perfectly acceptable for a teenager to be attractive and proud of her body. It is not acceptable to write her as the half-naked friend who’s sole purpose is to tag along with her overly serious friend with mysterious abilities.
And that brings me to the next problem I have. Maybe there are a lot of teenage guys who spend hours at a time brooding and not giving two shits about anything at all. I don’t know. I’ve never met one. Most of them tend to at least show interest in girls or boys. The weird thing is that the characters in these shows are all terribly arrogant, aloof, and downright mean to their female counterparts. The girls basically spend most of their time following their magical superhero friends around. Like their entire purpose is to be eye candy that sometimes figures shit out first. But of course, no one listens to her when she does because they’re too busy focusing the camera down her shirt.
I’m not knocking all anime artists or writers. They have some great imaginations. The animation issue is a personal one. That’s me. I can’t make myself like it. The problem with the characters is worldwide. It isn’t just anime that does it. In fact, there is a problem with nearly every genre depicting women of every age. They’re either weak-minded, weak-willed, or an utterly lost cause. Again…not all films. This is just a common problem. And for some reason men are consistently shown to lack the ability to show affection without expecting to get laid. I’m relieved that real men aren’t all like that.
I’ve been noticing a trend, however, where more and more movies are depicting both sexes with more depth than a cracker. I just hope it continues. And I also hope that soon we’ll have films that depict trans people who aren’t just there to be the flamboyant, sassy one. I thought Boys Don’t Cry did a great job of that. (Of course that was based on a true story and was completely heart-breaking.)
 Now…back to the live action thing. I’m actually excited I get to see these stories played out in a medium I can watch without cringing. At last, I’ll be able to enjoy what my friends have for years. However…
What’s with all the white characters? (I swear to the gods if anyone accuses me of being SJW (which…I’m still not sure why that’s a bad thing), I’m going to knock your head in…Not really, but please shut the fuck up. If you have enough privilege to accuse someone of fighting for the fair treatment of minorities, then you’re not solving anything by being an asshole.) I don’t have a problem with white characters. I mean…I’m fucking white. That’s obviously not an issue. I’m just not sure we’re doing this right. Japanese stories with Japanese characters are being rewritten by white writers, and the characters are all coming out white. Did they go through the laundry when they moved from animation to live action? It’s like someone decided to pour bleach all over the entire thing. There are plenty talented Japanese actors. Why aren’t we utilizing them for these roles?
Honestly, I’m more baffled than anything. I’m not so upset that I’ll boycott the industry. I’m not even upset enough to make more of a stink about it than this blog post. (Like 10 people read this shit anyway.) I just want to know why.
In the end, I may or may not watch the films. Ghost in the Shell looks really bad ass, and I actually like Scarlett Johansson. I’ll probably end up watching it at home. As for Death Note, I’m not sure yet. The concept is intriguing. We’ll see how it goes.
And with that…I’m out of ranting. Have a beautiful fucking day everyone.

Gordal’s Seed – FF Challenge

“In today’s news, Gordal the Great has decided to choose one lucky human woman to impregnate. The contest will take place on VH1’s Gordal’s Seed, which is set to begin recording at the end of March. Applications for this exciting new series are being accepted via prayer to Gordal the Great.”

“You have to be fucking kidding me,” Elijah says. He hits the power button on the TV controller and groans. He sits on a beaten up leather sofa with his arms folded. The room is cluttered, boxes stacked against the wall from months ago that need to be unpacked yesterday. Delilah sits at her desk, seemingly not paying attention. Her hair sits atop her head in a messy bun, a pen shoved behind her ear. She flips a page in a brochure for some obscure vacation spot.

Elijah stands and starts to pace. “I mean, who would be stupid enough to think they should just give everything up to carry a demigod? Have you ever met one of those kids?”

Delilah shrugs. “Wasn’t your grandmother a demigod?” she asks in a bored tone. She flips another page. “We should check out Empella’s Pillars for our next vacation. The ruins there are fantastic.”

“Yeah, but she was different,” Elijah says, ignoring the vacation idea. “Her mother and father loved one another. I mean my great grandmother, Metatorma, made herself mortal just to grow old with a human man. Gordal is just looking for more followers.”

“And thanks to her, you’re able to breathe underwater.” Delilah looks up from her brochure finally. “Besides, people are going to follow who they want. It doesn’t matter what their reasons are. Gordal is a god, so he can do what he wants.”

Elijah huffs. “Okay then. Why don’t you apply for the show. I’d love to see your face when you find out you have to compete for a god with a bloated sense of celebrity.”

“You do realize he’s the god of ego?” She laughs. “They actually have to follow their nature. Otherwise we have centuries more of chaos and war, and millions of us regular people die. Gordal is just being who he is.” She closes the brochure and at last looks at Elijah. “Why does it bother you so much?”

He frowns. “How does it not bother you? In their eyes, we’re just pets. We are little things they like to collect and leave behind when they tire of us.”

Delilah stands and makes her way to the kitchen. “They are what they are, Eli. We can’t expect them to be anything else. If you don’t like Gordal, don’t pray to him. Find yourself a god you actually like.”

“The one I actually liked is dead.” He frowns. “All the good ones sacrifice themselves for us.”

Delilah opens a bottle of orange juice and starts drinking it right out of the bottle. She wipes her mouth with her sleeve. “That’s probably what they say about us.”

 

***

There’s something disturbing about waking up to a beam of light hovering over you with no source. Delilah sits up with a start and catches her breath. Elijah snores softly beside her, completely unaware they have a message from the gods.

“Delilah, it is a pleasure to see you again,” a voice says. She knows that voice. It’s Pelt, the god of communication. And just like when they were dating, he has no concern for the time of day.

“It’s four in the morning, Pelt. What do you want?”

“I have a message for you from Gordal the Great.”

Delilah frowns. “Why–”

“You have been summoned to audition for Gordal’s Seed.” Another pause. “And…it’s likely you’ll be chosen.”

“Hedra’s ass! You can tell Gordal the Great where to stick his mighty seed. Right up his–”

“Delilah, please. He has a lot of support. If you deny his invitation there’s no telling what the punishment will be. Remember Medusa?”

She has nothing else to say. This is probably what she gets for posing as a human. Though technically she is half human. “I don’t understand why he wants me. I don’t even meet his criteria.”

Pelt at last shows himself. Typical of gods, his body shimmers with a golden glow. Unreasonably lush hair falls over his perfectly symmetrical face. As beautiful as ever, she sees. Delilah swallows. “You’re sure there’s no way out of this?”

He shakes his head. “I’m sorry. I did argue against it. I even brought up your father.”

Delilah rolls her eyes. “Yeah, I’ll bet good old Dad really gives a damn. I haven’t heard from Devoro since I was nineteen, and that was because he thought I was someone else and decided to hit on me.” She shudders and makes a sour face.

Pelt curls his upper lip in disgust. “You never told me that.”

“Yeah well it’s not exactly something I like to discuss.” She stands from the bed, thankfully still wearing a t-shirt and shorts. “When do I leave?” She slides her feet into a pair of flip-flops beside her bed.

“Now.”

“Well, I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”

***

“Contestant number four hundred, please approach,” the judges call. The judges for the auditions are a set of demigod triplets. Each of them wear their golden curls up with not even one hair out of place. They stare at Delilah with sharp golden-green eyes. Unlike human triplets, these three are dependant on one another. If one were to go more than a mile from the others, chaos would warp the reality of whatever area they inhabited. It happened once, with a tragic consequence. Over five hundred people were absorbed into the earth.

Delilah steps forward and nervously pinches the gown they’d made her wear. It’s a simple gown similar to those worn by the ancient Spartan women. Even if it’s perfectly comfortable, she finds herself wishing she were in a pair of shorts.

All three of the judges speak at once, though it sounds as if one voice rings out. “Please state your name, background, and why you would be a good contestant for the show.”

“Delilah Devrodi. I’m a demigod, daughter of Devro. My nature is privacy, which I might add, is exactly why I’m not a good choice for this show.” She scans the faces of the judges which are all wearing the same bored expression. “I have no interest in being Gordal’s lucky human woman.”

“But you are here auditioning. Why is that? Do you wish to go against your nature?”

She almost laughs. “I am here because Gordal summoned me. I’m half god. I thought he was looking for a human woman. So you tell me. What am I doing here?”

The triplets look at one another, obviously telepathically discussing the situation. They turn their eyes back to Delilah. “Gordal has personally chosen you to appear on his new series. Please take an information packet and proceed through the door to your right. You will be summoned again when it is time for filming.

Fuck,” Delilah says under her breath. She takes a packet and heads for the door to her right.

***

Avery and Penelope are the only two women left besides Delilah. So far she’s tried everything to be kicked off the show, and the unfortunate events that lead to the death of one of the contestants were partly her fault. Partly. If she hadn’t been forced to go against her nature it would have never happened. Greta had been arguing with Delilah over her anti-social attitude, which of course every camera turned to witness. She tried to stop it, tried to warn Greta and the camera operators. Ten minutes later paramedics were taking her body off the set. Avery and Penelope stay as far away from Delilah as possible now. Just how she prefers it.

She sits, stiff-backed in a dress too formal for her taste and stares at Gordal. There is no denying who is father is. Narcissus was worse, to be fair.

Gordal smiles at her despite her obvious lack of desire for him. “You look very much like your great-grandmother,” he says. “Although, you have your father’s nose. That isn’t unfortunate, though.”

“Are you trying to flatter me?” Because it’s working, she thinks then admonishes herself for it. One of Gordal’s gifts is charm, and it’s difficult to not fall under his spell. “I thought you were more interested in discussing yourself.”

He is gorgeous though. Look at that smile, those perfect teeth. His arms… She snaps herself out of the lapse.

Gordal chuckles. “Quite right. I am a rather fine specimen. Yet you continue to deny your attraction to me. As irritating as that is, I must say,” he leans in so he’s inches from her face, “I find it quite alluring,” he whispers.

Delilah’s pulse quickens in her ears and heat rises in her face. “I’m sure you do,” she says flatly. She downs her glass of wine.

***

“This has been such a difficult choice for me. Both of you would compliment me quite well,” Gordal says smoothly. Avery smiles so big Delilah is convinced her face will split open.

“Unfortunately, I can only choose one of you. Rules are rules right?” He winks like he’s just said something witty. Avery sighs audibly. Delilah huffs and shakes her head. “Avery,” he approaches her and allows for a long, dramatic pause.

Avery looks up into his eyes, trembling in his presence.

Delilah can feel the bile rising in her throat.

“I have chosen…”

“And cut,” the director shouts.

Gordal drops Avery’s hands and looks over at his stylist team. “How am I looking? Perfect right?”

“Yes, Gordal, you are the most perfect being in the universe.” His hair dresser, an unnecessary employee, blushes as she pulls out a mirror for him. He nods in satisfaction.

Delilah finds her mind wanders back to Elijah. The last time they spoke he threatened to leave. She didn’t blame him. Now she knows exactly what he had meant before. Thanks to Gordal, that’s another relationship that won’t work out.

“Everyone take their places please,” the director shouts.

By the time the cameras are rolling again, Delilah is fighting the urge to run.

“I have chosen…”

She sighs at another long pause.

“Delilah,” Gordal finally says. He drops Avery’s hands. “I am sorry, Avery. I hope you have a wonderful life.

It takes a few moments for it to register that Gordal has chosen her. At last it happens. The outrage breaks through like a Hydra ready to devour its next hero. “Absolutely not!” She turns on Gordal. “I am not yours to impregnate. None of us are.” Delilahs face is hot, her hands shaking.

“I am!” Avery announces.

Gordal ignores the crying woman and glares at Delilah. “Excuse me?” His eyes have gone from sapphire to the color of burning embers.

“You heard me. I’m done.” All around her, the crew is chattering under their breaths. None of them know what to do now. Gordal gawks at her. He’s never been so humiliated. “Go back to your wife, Gordal.” With that, Delilah storms off the set and calls for a transport with Pelt.

***

“I can’t believe you actually did that on live television. I swear you have a death wish.” Elijah stands in their living room. The boxes are gone, but she isn’t sure if that means he’s unpacked or he has moved them somewhere else. He cracks a smile. “Fucking told Gordal to go back to his wife. I’ll bet she loves you.”

Delilah shrugs. It’s not so funny. “What about you? Are you…” She can’t bring herself to ask the question.

“I’m sorry, De.” He drops his gaze. She can feel her stomach bottom out. “I’ve decided to stay and torture you.” He grins wide.

“Gods, I hate you,” she says. Her heart pounds. “I…but what about–”

“The fact that you’re a demigod?” He shrugs. “I guess you’re one of the good ones.”

Random Rambling Writing

Jessa is the one in the old worn coat standing in the rain. Parts of her shake, but she’s steady inside. Her hands and knees tremble. It’s not because she’s afraid. Anxious…maybe. There’s confidence in her face. A snicker in the back of her throat. This world is her’s,  and she will see it gone. And, she thinks, I will be the last to go.

It’s time before Jessa is ready. She steps onto the transport unsteadily. Damn it. She wanted to appear assured.

The grinding begins, and she straightens herself with the safety bars. The timer ticks down. Forty five minutes to go.

Memory Thief

It isn’t something you can see. When it arrives, your olfactories go into overdrive.  The acrid stench stings your nostrils, but it doesn’t prepare you for the overwhelming stink of death. And I’m not talking about the rat in the walls stink. I’m talking about a corpse left in the sun for a week. You feel like your stomach is coming up through your mouth.That’s how you know it’s there.

My journal is nearly full. I stare down at the worn pages as I turn them. They haven’t changed in a year. Each one for that period repeats the same thing. Except…I turn to the last page I’ve written and glance at the date. I can’t remember what today is. How long have I been here? My first thought is to look around…and I do. Carefully.

The room is nothing to brag about. There’s a bed beneath me with a simple wool blanket and white sheet. I don’t even have a pillow. The walls are all barren except for a small window just at eye level. Bars cover it. I stand and make my way across the concrete floor in slippers I don’t remember putting on. In fact, I don’t remember dressing in this robe or tying back my hair. I can feel the pull of it behind my head. I pause as I begin to question what I actually remember at all. And it’s…nothing. I woke in this bed, surrounded by these walls, with this journal in my hand. Is it mine?

Before I can make it to the window, there’s a short knock at the door behind me. I spin and catch my breath. It takes a moment for me to recover. “Wh-who’s there?”

“Doctor Estez,” a muffled voice answers from behind the door. “Please have a seat, Nova.”

“I don’t understand.”

There’s a short pause before he answers. I can hear him mumble something, but it’s too low to make out. “Please have a seat, Nova. We’re here to help.”

I’m not certain why, but I obey and sit on the edge of my bed. It’s stiff, uncomfortable for any position. I glance back at the door. “O-okay. I’m sitting now.”

I hear three loud clicks and metal grinding against metal as the locks release. The door complains as it opens, letting out a woeful groan against its hinges. Doctor Estes stands behind two men in uniform, both carrying guns. All of them wear facemasks.

My frown deepens. “Why do you have weapons?”

“It’s for my safety, Nova,” Doctor Estes says calmly. He steps past the two men and looks at me over his glasses. “You’re not always…cooperative.”

There’s something that itches in the back of my mind when I hear his voice. A shudder of panic races through my nervous system. I can’t quite place why, but there it is. I don’t trust him.

He produces a large syringe and holds it gently in gloved hands. “I need a sample today. We’re getting closer to finding a way to hide from it.”

“It?” I think back over the journal entry I read.

He nods. “You’ve quite frequently called it ‘the monster,’ but we know it as Memoria Fur.” He gestures to one of the soldiers who immediately moves further into the room. “We just need a blood sample today, Nova. We need to know why it chose you…to find a reason it chooses anyone.”

I swallow against a dry throat. “I don’t…What do you mean chooses? Please, Doctor Estes, I don’t understand.”

Doctor Estes sighs. “Doctor Bellard will be in here shortly to explain. He’s our psych advisor. We go through this every time.”

“Every time? As in you’ve taken my blood before.” Something about that seems wrong. “Why would you need multiple samples?”

He smiles. “I’m always fascinated by the amount of knowledge you’ve retained. Others…well most of them can barely tie their shoes.” He leans down so that he’s eye level with me. “And that’s why you are so important, Doctor Nova Rithe.” He straightens and shrugs. His grip on the syringe has tightened. “Of course, I need more samples because you destroyed the last batch. It’s the third incident.” He nods to the soldier beside me.

Before I can react, the solder has me in a tight bear hug. He’s too strong to fight. I struggle, but it’s pointless, so I give up. Another man, much smaller and meeker, moves toward me with a strip of rubber.

“You don’t have to hold me down,” I say breathlessly. “You can have your sample.”

“Yes. You said that last time.” Doctor Estes pulls the collar of his shirt down. A bruise is there on his neck…in the shape of teeth. “I learned my lesson.”

***

It isn’t something you can see. When it arrives your olfactories go into overdrive.  The acrid stench stings your nostrils, but it doesn’t prepare you for the overwhelming stink of death. And I’m not talking about the rat in the walls stink. I’m talking about a corpse left in the sun for a week. You feel like your stomach is coming up through your mouth.That’s how you know it’s there.

I look up from the pages of the journal I hold. Doctor Bellard sits across a silver table from me. He’s watching me intently, arms crossed over his broad chest. The respirator he wears over his face blocks the turn of his lips. I imagine he’s frowning. He’s not like Doctor Estes. There’s something calming about his presence. And something sad.

He tilts his head. “Turn to the very last page.”

“That’s the last one,” I say with a small amount of uncertainty.

“The last one,” he says. “As in the very last page in the entire journal.”

I glance down at it and hesitate. My jaw tightens as I do as he asks.

It has been two years since I was attacked. The monster has taken everything. I know love, but I do not remember it. I know I had a mother, a father, a husband…a child. But I cannot picture them. My hands shake more frequently. Soon I will not even remember my name. Short-term memory is failing. What did I eat yesterday? When did I put on these clothes?

If only I had found the camouflage before I was attacked….

A tear falls from my chin onto the page, blurring the last word. I snap the journal closed and set it on the table.

“Do you remember me, Nova? Do you know who I am?” Doctor Bellard leans forward with his arms on the table now. His eyes convey sympathy. I want none.

I shake my head no. It’s all I can muster.

“That’s okay,” he says as he reaches for my hand.

I draw it back. Not out of spite. I can’t hate him–not that I know why that is. I just want answers now, not comfort. “What is this….monster?”

He sighs and leans back in his chair. “Memoria Fur is a creature…sort of. It’s out of our visual range. It can only be seen in infrared. But basically it’s exactly as its name translates.”

“Memory thief,” I whisper. How do I know that?

Doctor Bellard nods. “Yes. It absorbs the energy from specific brain activity. When we remember things, life memories, it latches on.”

“Like a parasite.”

“Yes and no. It continues until it has had its fill. Unfortunately for some, that means everything. For some reason your memories were taken, but you’ve retained your knowledge. Doctor Estes is convinced he can find out why through your DNA, but…”

I shake my head no again. “It’s in my brain structure.”

He frowns. “Nova, do you know what that means?”

“Doctor Bellard,” I draw a deep breath. “Get me a brain surgeon.”

***

The bed is softer than mine, and for some reason I appreciate that. Even if I’m about to die. Doctor Thames looks at me through surgical glasses. I can’t make out his mouth beneath the mask, but I can see he’s worried from the deep furrow in his brow. “I want you to know, I protested this all the way to the top. We can’t guarantee we’ll find what we need this way.”

The drugs are just setting in, so it takes all of my energy to answer. “I can’t live like this.”

There was a Great Man

My dad’s name was Michael, and he was 54 when he died on Sunday, February 12, 2017. My dad was loving, tough, determined, intelligent, and passionate. And I feel like he was unjustly stolen from us. It’s hard to describe how losing a parent changes things. You find yourself wallowing in a well of depression. You find yourself angry and bitter. You find the world suddenly missing some of its light. Days are darker, time is agonizingly slow, and the slightest thing can trigger the flow of tears you keep trying not to cry.

Now that he’s gone, I’ve come to realize something. I realize that despite his being temperamental  and seemingly pissed off at the entire universe, my dad fully embraced unconditional love. Very few people, I’ve found, truly understand the meaning of unconditional love. He did though, and no matter how hard it was for him to get past his anger, he never stopped loving. It might have been days or weeks, even months before he overcame whatever it was that hurt him, but he would. Differences meant nothing, angry words were left behind, and all that remained was the unbreakable bond he’d formed with his family.

This doesn’t mean that he was always forgiving. Unless you were one of his daughters, he could hold on to a grudge with a grip so tight not even a god could break it. But in the last couple of years of his life, he’d learned and mastered forgiveness too. He made peace with those who had hurt him and he had hurt back. It made him lighter at heart. He was happier. He was calmer. His temper was no longer as explosive as it once was. Even through his messages to me, I could tell something had changed, and it was for the better.

Yet since his death, something in me has changed. I’ve reached the stage in my grief where not only am I profoundly hurt, but I’m carrying around a lot of rage. I’m starting to open my eyes to the wrongs I didn’t want to believe before. I could have had so many more years knowing my dad if it hadn’t been for one person. My whole life I’ve held her in the same light I did when I was a little girl. The pedestal may have been battered, but it never fell. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen her since I was ten. It didn’t matter she’d abandoned me and my sister, or that she’d made little effort staying in contact with us. I made excuses for her. She’s sick. She couldn’t help it. We’re better off because she didn’t have the capacity to raise us.

It’s true my mother’s mental health has never been stable. But right now, I don’t want to make excuses for her. When I was around eight years old I spent a brief amount of time with my dad. That was until my mother did something unforgivable. She left him for the second time, but that’s not what I’m so pissed off about. It’s the fact that she didn’t even leave him a means to contact me. She didn’t even tell him where we went or that we were even going away. She stole my time with him from me.

What right did she have cutting out the one parent who gave a damn about me? She spouts all these grand words of love for me, but where has she been? Not here. When I told her my dad had died…I wanted to kick her. She went on about herself and how she felt about him without so much as asking if I was okay. I’ve come so close to hating her that I can taste the bile in the back of my throat when I think about her. But I’m being selfish now. My bitterness is overshadowing the fact that there was a great man. His name was Michael, and he was my dad.

He left behind 4 daughters, a granddaughter, and a family that loved him deeply. I worry most about my sisters. They’re young, too young to have lost a parent. But I know they’ve inherited our dad’s strength. I can see it in the way they carry on despite the hardships in their lives. I’m proud of them. Somehow we’ll get through all of this. We might have to take the long way around, but we’ll get to a place where thinking of Dad won’t leave a painful knot in our chests. We’ll be able to smile and talk about how amazing he was.

Our dad’s name was Michael. He was 54 when he died. He wasn’t perfect, but he loved us, and we’ll never stop loving him.