Random Thoughts

The Hounds of Tindalos

How did I get here? These woods look familiar yet so different. Through the darkness a murder of crows cry out. As I begin to wonder my way through the soaked forest I realise I have no shoes. Where are my shoes? I begin to look around for them, but there is something coming, I can hear it. I crouch down and peer into the abyss and walking towards me is a wolf, but it is no ordinary wolf. No, its mouth appears to be full of fangs, and its fur, its fur is dripping with blood. This is some type of demon wolf. I begin to creep backwards, snap, a fallen branch shatters beneath my foot. Now I have no choice. I take off running, making my way over logs and jumping from rock to rock. I wish I had my shoes, where are they? I try to run faster, I can hear the demon catching me. I try to swing my arms harder, then I realise. I have no arms! I can feel them, but when I look down I cannot see them. After a moment I realise, I do have arms, they are tied behind my back. Why are my arms tied? I can hear the wolf gaining on me! My lungs are burning, I cannot outrun this, this thing. There, I dove into a cave and held my breath. I hold my breath till I am about to pass out. I think it is gone. Ok, now where am I? I start to walk deeper into the cave, maybe I can find a safe place to sit down and figure this all out. Out of nowhere a flash of lightning lights up the cave, the ceiling is covered in giant bats and I am face to face with one. As the crack of thunder rolls through the cave, a sea of yellow eye illuminate the cave. I look into the eyes of the bat inches from my nose, I can see the reflection of a building in them. I whipped around. Darkness. How did I see that building? There is no building. Wait, I regonize that building, that is Henry’s Place. Henry’s was my favorite bar, I miss that bar. Oh, how I miss the good old days. I really miss my baby girl Becky, I can almost hear her voice calling out to me. No, wait, I can hear her. I’m coming baby, I’m coming to get you! As I get closer to the mouth of the cave I can hear her crying out for me, its getting louder. All I can hear is her crying out to me over and over as I scramble towards the mouth of the cave, “Daddy, where are you Daddy? I need you to come back!”. I am almost there, It sounds like she is right outside! “I’m coming honey!”, I yell out. As I stumble out into the rain I find myself face to face with the wolf, no more than ten feet apart. The wolf opens its mouth and I hear it again, “Daddy, where are you daddy?”. “What the fuck are you? you fucking demon!” The wolf lunged at me. I managed to jump out of the way and i take off running again. I am in a full sprint. I don’t know where I am, but I have to get out. The rain is soaking wet, it is slowing me down. I have to get away from whatever that was. I can hear it, the wolf is chasing me. I have to keep going, I have to go faster! SPLASH! I find myself on my back in a puddle of water. I must have slipped in my lapse in concentration. There it is, the wolf. There it is just standing over me, “WHAT ARE YOU?!”. The wolf just snarled and feverously licked it’s nose. “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!”, I scream out in desperation. The wolf leans in and glares into my eyes. In its glowing yellow pools I see it, I see my wife’s body. She is just lying there, covered in blood. I begin to weep. I remember that day like it was yesterday. “Please, just kill me”, I manage to whimper out. Just as the demon opened its huge mouth, there was a loud noise and the wolf just disappeared into thin air. The noise sounded like pounding on a thick steel plate. With a haunting creek, light poured into the cell. A silhouette dropped a tray of food on the cold hard ground, “Its time for your pills Mr. Tindalos.” A few moments later the door slams shut again. I walk over and sit against the back wall of the cell, “I am glad to be back in these padded walls again.” I whisper to nobody. I took a deep breath and leaned back against the wall. Just as I start to relax I feel a warm breath on my neck as the wolf snarls from behind me…

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Painting: “The Hounds of Tindalos” by: James Wolf Strehle

 

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From Steam to Tears

The Beginning

It was a rainy afternoon here in Ferrum which had everyone in a tizzy. People wanted to get their usual errands run while trying to stay dry, but they were also in a hurry to get home so they can catch as much water as possible. See, here in Ferrum there is very little rainfall so when it does happen everyone tries to gather as much as they can. Not necessarily because they will die without it, but because it is free. Ferrum is run by what some may call a government but more closely resembles a military bent on absolute control and constant display of power. To get the point across they control the water, all the wells in Ferrum are under twenty four hour guard by soldiers. The water is heavily taxed and rationed to keep the general public poor and dependent on the government, also known affectionately as “The Iron Hand”. All except Eugene Potts and his daughter Akali, who over the years have become almost completely self-sufficient from The Iron Hand and have a growing dislike towards the government.

On this afternoon Akali is just as happy to see the rain as everyone else, but she not in a hurry or even attempting to stay dry. She is strolling up and down Market Street as if she wasn’t aware she was getting soaking wet. She simply enjoyed the rain and everything it brought with it, the unique smell of rain falling on the dusty sandy ground and the sounds of it hitting all the different surfaces especially the hissing of rain falling on the steam powered wagon that followed on her errand trips. Akali had always been looked at by others as odd, except the boys her age. They only saw how undoubtedly attractive she was, even though she spent her life building machinery and was normally covered in soot from the forge. Many wondered how she was the daughter of Eugene, who is an interesting looking character to say the least.

Eugene was an average boy until age six when his left leg was stricken by polio and became very deformed and twisted. From that time on he has been a recluse, never leaving the house unless he had to. Which since Akali became old enough to run errands alone is almost never.

Eugene grew up reading all the books he could get his hands on and is entirely self taught. He has spent much of his life inventing things and doing experiments, He truly enjoys machinery and robotics. He has had his fair share of accidents, especially since technology is limited to steam power. From time to time miscalculations happen and pressures exceed containable levels. He designed the steam powered wagon that carries all of Akali’s goods while she goes out shopping for them.  Eugene has also invented many other things to help him around the house with his mobility issues, things to pick him up onto work benches and even a rotating shelving unit to give him many shelves but with the press of a button any one of them can be easily accessible to him. Though he has the skills to invent a better option Eugene still insists on walking around with the twisted wooden crutch he had as a child, which is now too short for him. It reminds him of his past and why he has all the skills he has today.

Akali was now almost to their house on the outskirts of town. It was the same small house Eugene grew up in with a shop out back that his late father had built for him. It was finished in Eugene’s teen years when his father got tired of him doing his experiments in the kitchen. Akali was so excited to get home and help store all the water they had collected today. They had over 3 barrels of water due to the most efficient rain collection system possibly ever built. Akali built the entire thing five years ago at the age of eleven using her father’s plans. To celebrate the rain and sudden abundance of water Akali bartered some copper tubing for meat and extra carrots to make a stew.

Akali chopped vegetables and meat into the large pot sitting on the potbelly stove between the kitchen and the sitting room. While stirring the pot she asked her father if he had made any progress on any of his many projects today. He told her that he has made a plan that could get them very close to finished on their biggest project to date, a humanoid robot. Its duties would be to help Eugene with his projects by doing heavy lifting and even working on machines while they are being tested so Eugene and Akali can be at a safe distance. He would also be useful as protection against The Hand, who over the last year and a half have been snooping around and getting increasingly violent. The last time they came while Akali was out and she came home to the house trashed and machines broken in the shop and her father beat up in the corner. Akali had been known to fight the soldiers from The Hand, but her father didn’t want to see her get hurt. So this robot could help with that.

Once dinner was done Akali helped her father into his favorite chair and went to grab two bowls of stew. They sat down near the window and watched and listened to the rain fall in silence as they ate. Akali sat in her chair with steam rolling out of her bowl and across her face as she watched the water droplets slowly work their way down the dusty window outside. She quietly thought to herself that this was the best day she has had in some time, rain coming down, warm stew in her belly, and progress on their biggest project.

After dinner, Eugene hobbled over to the sink with their bowls and began doing the dishes. Meanwhile, Akali went out back to make sure all of their traps were set and ready in case The Hand tried to get into their shop again. The admiral, commander of The Iron Hand, wanted Eugene and all of his plans and machines. She wanted to force Eugene to help her engineers build robots for battle. She wanted a fully mechanized steam powered army to take over the world. Eugene realized that if that happened the admiral would hold the whole world in the conditions they are in now. He could not let that happen.

That is the true reason Eugene wanted to complete his robot, not just to help around the shop, but to protect them; to protect Akali. Eugene knew he was getting old and some day it would only be Akali. He could not let her face the admiral and her minions alone. Akali knew in her heart that her father was getting older and frailer but she could not bring herself to truly accept it. Some nights she when she was done checking the traps she would quietly watch her father finish up the dishes. He always did a good job no matter how much his boney arthritis riddled hands hurt or how tired his eyes were behind their bottle cap glasses. His appearance had really started to age him. The lenses on his glasses appeared to be an inch thick with just enough wire to hold them to his face, and his hair, what he had left was straggly and beginning to grey.  No matter what he looked like Akali loved him with all her heart, he was all she had. Akali was all Eugene had as well, she was the reason he kept getting out of bed every day. It wasn’t just a hobby of machines anymore, he had a reason to sell and fix machines for money. He had a reason to invent new things to make her life easier. He had a reason to provide her with a  protector.

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Deo's Story

Meeting Elijah

The men started cleaning up the bandit camp. They had to get all the bodies out of the camp if they were going to stay there for the night. One by one they drug bodies out into the darkness. There was no time to bury them and a fire that big would be too visible. As they continued to work Deo walked into the tent were the boy ran. He walked in and saw the boy hiding behind some crates filled with loot, mostly coats and daggers. Deo said nothing, he just sat down and began stripping off his armored sleeve. The boy watched him intensely, he jumped a little when the armor crashed into the ground. Deo picked up his sword as he said, “We are not here to hurt you. Who are you? Where are you from?” Deo began cleaning and sharpening his weapon in silence. After some time of nothing but the sounds of the men outside and a stone on the blade, the boy spoke, “Why are you here? Why did you kill them?” Deo calmly looked over at the boy, “We are here because Feldor is at war with Eastrend, and we killed the bandits because they are bad men trying to make a profit off of the deaths of men who are defending their homeland.” “Thank you for killing them, they had been beating me for weeks. I had no place else to go so I was doing what they asked the best I could.” the boy continued, “My name is Elijah.” “Well don’t worry Elijah, none of my men will harm you. Where are you from we can try to get you home to your family.” Elijah sunk down further behind the crates and whimpered out, “I am from Eastrend.” Deo’s head whipped around to stare at the boy, he was shaking and staring at Deo’s sword. Deo just sat there and watched him. He was muttering to himself. Slowly Deo could see the fear in his face briefly turn to sadness, then to pure hate. With tears in his eyes and hate in his voice Elijah growled, “I hate them, I have nothing left there, they killed my family, THEY KILLED THEM ALL!” He began to break down into a tantrum of sorrow and rage, flailing about and knocking things over. Deo bent down and grabbed him, he held him so tight Elijah had no choice but to calm down. Deo sat him down on the cot and started organizing his things and some of Elijah’s mess.

“I remember it like it was yesterday” Elijah began,”they came knocking on the door, the soldiers from the castle. They wanted my father to join the fight. He didn’t want to go. They started to drag my father away. I ran and grabbed my hunting bow, I shot one in the head and killed him instantly.” Elijah’s face turned to a thousand yard stare. His mind was still in shock over what happened. “My father looked back at me in horror. Then he grabbed a dagger off the dead soldier and stabbed a second one several times in the body. The soldier was hurt but managed to pull his own dagger and bury it in my father’s chest before he died. My father ran to me and hugged me, he held me until he died. My mother told me to go hide in the closet. I hid as deep as I could. A few minutes later more soldiers arrived. I was surrounded by coats so I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but they sounded enraged. Then I heard a scuffle, and then my mother started screaming. My mind wanted to burst out of that closet and save her, but my body wouldn’t budge. Then everything went black, all I remember was her screaming.” Elijah broke out of his stare and looked up at Deo as he finished, “When I woke up it was morning. I couldn’t hear anything so I go out of the closet. There was nothing left, all the bodies were gone. My mother was gone, most of her dress was on the floor in shredded pieces. I took off into the woods, that is where the bandits found me.” He stared into Deo’s eyes and his tone once again was full of hate, “I will never fight for Eastrend, I will never go back unless it is to kill all of them.”

With a look of sympathetic pleasure on his face Deo just looked at the boy and said one thing, “So you said you can use a bow?”

 

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Deo's Story

The Bandit Camp

Through the dark forest Deo and his men spot a camp fire. Deo signals his men to stay low and quite as they fan out. They approach the camp in complete silence, no one inside suspects a thing. Sword drawn Deo is ready to give the signal to his men who surround the encampment. There roughly 20 men in camp, most are just gathered around the fire swapping stories and carrying on. They outnumber Deo’s crew 2 to 1 but Deo’s men have surprise and battle experience on their side. Deo is looking for any signs of allegiance and sees none, “They must be bandits, profiting off the deaths of the war” he thinks. As he is watching a boy, no older than 13 comes out of a tent to bring the men some more ale.

“This is the last of it sir.” The boy cowardly remarks as he hands them a small barrel. A large man burps out, “It better not be!” “I am sorry to say, but it is the last one.” The large man storms around the fire and picks up the boy by his hair and holds him nose to nose, “If it is, it will be the last thing you ever deliver…” he ended with a loud belch. The boy hit the ground and turned to run back into the tent, but the large man kicked him in the back causing the boy to fall to the ground face first. All the other men burst out in laughter and cheers.

Deo had seen enough, he gave the signal to all of his men who watching from the darkness surrounding the camp. As they all charged the center of the camp Deo shouted over the cheers and laugher “The fat one is MINE!” That got the attention of the men in the camp who began to scramble for their weapons. The boy scrambled to a tent just as the men began to clash. The first bandit Deo came upon was slashed in two at the waist by Deo’s immense strength. All of his men were hacking their way through the drunk and inexperienced bandits. With only a few bandits left, Deo spotted the large fat bully in a duel with one of his men. Deo began to storm towards the duel. Out of nowhere a man comes running out of a tent towards Deo. Deo did not alter his course and just as the bandit reached striking distance he crumpled to the ground with a knife in his head that was thrown from across the camp. Deo reached the duel as his men started to head that way. Deo reached out to the unsuspecting overweight bandit and in one quick motion, he grabbed his ponytail and jerked him to the ground. The man looked up in sheer terror. He couldn’t believe his eyes, not only was Deo the biggest man he had ever seen but he was covered in the blood of all his friends. The bandit rolled over to his front side and tried to crawl away as fast he could. Deo kicked him in the ass as hard as he could. The man’s face smashed into the earth so hard it broke his nose. He rolled onto his side spitting out dirt and rocks as Deo walked closer. In one precision swing Deo’s massive sword separated the man’s left calf and achilles tendon from the rest of his body. The man screamed out in pain as Deo’s crew laughed and cheered, much like the bandits had done not too much earlier with the boy. In a deep menacing voice bellows, “Do you make a habit of enslaving boys and taking them into war zones?” “W… we, we just found him out here” he managed to blurt out while trying to scoot away. “Is that any way to treat a boy lost in a war zone then? And what are YOU doing out here anyways? You do not display any sign of allegiance to either side…” The man just continued to scramble away with Deo and his men just slowly following him. The man was looking around frantically while unsuccessfully trying to keep his distance from Deo. Suddenly, Deo’s sword pierced the earth less than inch from the man’s nose, cutting the top of his shoulder in the process. “ANSWER ME!” Deo howled. Deo pulled up his sword and pointed it at the man’s chest. The man started into Deo’s intense eyes, thinking he had Deo’s attention he slowly tried to reach for some throwing knives on the belt of a body he was on top of. Without breaking eye contact Deo’s sword was thrust into the earth again, this time it separated the man’s reaching hand from its wrist. At this point Deo was done messing around, he knelt over the man as he wet himself “I hope for your sake, you are right with the Gods because the next thing that is coming off is your head.” Deo swiftly stood up and with one seemingly effortless movement the Bandit would never harass another young boy again.

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The Voice

The First Call

It’s a cold night in the inner-city, Garen is once again walking home late from spending most of the day at the gym. He had always worked out and been in shape, but recently he has spent most of his time at the gym. Working out and boxing have been the only things that can keep his mind straight for the last few months. A crack of thunder rolls down the street and it begins to rain. Garen pulls up his hood as his hot sweaty body begins to steam. She loved the rain. Whenever it would rain she would always want to go for a walk, he never understood that. He would do anything to go on a walk with her tonight. His eyes started to gloss over with tears as he began thinking about that night. He couldn’t believe that she *Cell phone Rings*. Garen’s heart sank and skipped a beat at the same time. She was the only one who ever called him, but it had been months. “Hello?!” a man responds in a sly voice, “Heeello, is this Garen?” “Yea, who is this? How did you get this number?!” “None of that is important right now. What would you say if I told you I could make your life much better than it is right now? What if I could make you happy?” Garen thought of her. This guy must know her, how else would he get this number? “I would do anything” “That sounds great, but I need to see how motivated you are to be truly happy. You will need to do some things for Me.” the voice proceeded to give Garen some instructions and an address to be at in ten hours…

Garen continued home, so deep in thought that he didn’t even notice how cold he was getting in the rain and near freezing temperature. Once inside he peeled off his saturated clothes, they plopped in a heap on the fake wood floor just inside the front door. He ritualistically walked over and turned on the television on his way into the bathroom. He paced around the bathroom waiting for the shower to heat up, as he climbed in he exclaimed, “I knew she wasn’t dead.” to nobody.  In the shower Garen didn’t even wash, he just stood there. His head was hung in heavy thought and the water cascaded off of his head and down his back. Occasionally he would notice the tingling of another body part regaining feeling from the bitter cold, but other than that he was thinking about her, this situation, that man on the phone; everything he had went through in the last couple months.

For the rest of the night he couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned, his brain was running wild with infinite possibilities of what had happened and what will happen. At one point he became fixated on the man who called him. Who was he? How did he know her? Is she with him? Is he the reason she is gone? Was he a cop? Why the secrecy? In the end, he decided to listen to the instructions and get her back in the end. All he knew is that he wanted her back, he had learned from his mistakes.

At the root of it all Garen blamed himself, he felt that if he was there for her that night she would still be there with him. But, at the time he felt he had to stay late at work. He wanted to look good for his nice well paying job so they could continue to live happily on the nice side of town. The police, however, told him there was nothing he could have done.

Now look at him, all that time wasted at that job he no longer has. He gave it all up. When Garen lost her his world fell apart, he stopped going to work, he stopped paying his bills, he stopped caring. Now he lives in the projects, eats bologna sandwiches almost every meal, and cleans the gym so they will let him workout for free. That is all he has, the gym, without that he would have taken his only remaining valuable possession and blown his brains out by now. If he could get her back, he would love her more than any man had ever loved anything. He would appreciate her, he would never spend a minute more than he had to away from her.

The sun was now up and Garen was exhausted, but his rambling brain didn’t let him sleep a wink all night. It was getting close to the time he had to leave so he stumbled out of bed and made the last bowl of cereal in the box. He sat on the couch and turned on the television as he started eating. The TV was nothing but static with a warning box saying “No Signal”, they must have fixed that cable he spliced a few weeks back. Garen silently finished his cereal while staring at the snowing screen. He then got up and threw on some dry clothes and headed out for the address.

At the end of the block was the bus stop. As Garen was turning the corner the bus was just pulling up. He hustled and made it in on time. The bus was full of people on their way to work and school, though he was able to get a window seat near the back next to an old woman who smelled like cat litter and bad tuna. Garen didn’t care; he just gazed out the window as the bus made its rounds. He knew he was getting close as the scenery of trash piles and crowded buses slowly turned into that of empty park benches and SUVs with one person inside.

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The Battle for Control

The Battle for Control

“Hey Nick, I need your help…” rang through the garden like ungrateful nails on a deceitful chalkboard. It pulled Buddha from his meditation. He knew the challenge ahead, but he sat patiently on his perch in the rock garden. “Nick, i know you spent lots of time designing and planning this out but I think you are wrong in the two minutes I have looked at this. I think…” the words just turned into a numbing shrill. It was quickly overpowered by stampeding footsteps and breaking branches. Buddha knew what was coming, he had been through it many times before. He knew he must guard the archway to the outside at all costs. For a brief moment the shrieking stopped, then… “Yea if you can just design that up right now, thanks” rang out in the most unappreciative mono-tone you can imagine. The werebear let out a deafening roar and began to lumber through the zen garden. Buddha’s hair began to stand on end, then he heard it, “Oh yea, I also need…” and the shrieking was back. Buddha knew it was on. The werebear was now on all fours in an all out sprint for the arch. Buddha pounced from his perch to the edge of the garden and grabbed his bow-staff, just in time to crack the bear on the head. He tumbled back into the garden, stopping when he slammed into a boulder. Buddha charged him as the bear shook it off and regained his feet. Buddha used his staff to vault towards the bear. Just before impact the werebear swiped him out of midair, tearing his flesh and sending him tumbling deeper into the garden. The bear was distracted and headed toward the Buddha and away from the arch. When he got near the bear lunged at Buddha. Buddha crouched and braced his staff, it caught the beast in the abdomen. The staff bowed and punctured the beast under the enormous weight. Just before the staff broke Buddha managed to fling the beast into another boulder, this time dazing it. Buddha staggered towards it, blood pouring out of his side. The beast was beginning to regain his composure as Buddha reached him. They squared off in claw to staff combat. Buddha got a good swing breaking a few ribs, then the beast slashed down Buddha’s face tearing off the Buddha Beads around his neck in the process. The fight raged on. Buddha got a few more shots, breaking the snout then knocking out a few of the beasts teeth. Then a mistake, he lunged and was caught off balance. The beast swiped him to the ground, opening his back with deep wounds in the process. Just as the werebear came in for the killing blow Buddha rolled to his back and braced his staff against the bears crushing blow. This broke the staff, but saved Buddah from a fatal blow. Now weaponless and pinned on the ground, Buddha did his best to keep the beast from doing fatal damage. Buddha managed to get a foot under the massive bear and flip the beast over his head and into a nearby Bonsai Tree breaking a 100 year old branch. Buddha was badly damaged but managed to get to his feet. The bear was in a blood rage, charging Buddha once again. At the last moment Buddha turned his back and used to momentum of the beast to roll it onto the ground. Buddha scrambled to get control of one of his powerful arms. Finally he had it braced and was using all the force he could to try and break it. The werebear was scrambling, feeling his bones beginning to give way. Buddha was close to breaking it but losing strength from all damage and blood loss. Buddha was going into a zen state to summon one last burst of strength when the familiar smell of home flooded both of the warriors nostrils. The sound of a familiar front door closing filled the garden. With a sigh of relief Buddha loosened his grip and slid down the beast into a bloody heap in the sand. The werebear gingerly slid its fragile limb from what was left of Buddha’s grasp, then lumbered back into the woods in which it came. As Buddha regained consciousness he took a brief moment to be proud that yet again he was successful in preventing the beast from being exposed to the outside. With every day comes the potential for a new battle, and Buddha simply does his best to win the majority of them…

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