I’m a Perfect Patron Saint
When people hear about my faith in normal conversations,
You will find there comes to mind a set of expectations.
My church has lots of rules to heed they say will make life better
I've tried real hard to follow these instructions to the letter.
I'll tell you now, I like my church (and most of the people in it)
I want to go to heaven and have tried my best to win it.
Don't smoke, don't drink, don't disobey, don't date 'til you're sixteen.
Despite my pure facade, I'm not as perfect as I seem.
I drink Coke and Mountain Dew, which makes me look unseemly,
I swear a lot (inside my mind) and masturbate routinely.
Apart from that, my music taste, and homosexuality,
I'm a perfect patron saint of unquestionable morality.
I close my eyes, I breath slowly.
I'm no longer in my seat, but walking through the pines.
My shoes crunch against the pine cones and needles from the evergreens, though my bare feet are well acquainted with their prickly nature through my years growing up.
The wind is rushing through the trees, and it sounds like some celestial river.
The sun is shining off the clouds, and they look silver and bright in the deep periwinkle sky, contrasting with the golden waving fields of wheat graced with tall, reaching pines. I can pick a stock of week and eat the grains.
I will always call this place home.
I can smell the trees and fields. Bachelor's button dots the edges of the wheat, and I can make beautiful flower crowns with it.
I spend hours reminiscing about the pines, and I will go back before long. Until then, I still have work to do.
When your little toe collides with the table leg mid-stride, pain will shoot through your foot like a flash of hot fire.
The ebbing agony makes you feel like the bones in the digit have shattered like glass.
You're afraid to look at it because you're afraid that you might see it bent the wrong way.
Most times, nothing's broken. At most, it bruises up. It's the table's way of showing you that you have things too easy.
Feral and Saphris, Prologue
Winter was by far his least favorite season.
The coldness of the air, the brusqueness of the hardened snow, the dull gray of the sky, all of it was to his disdain. So, it is only fair he charged extra for a mission during those miserable inclimate months.
Feral cursed the deceptively deep snow. This year, it had reached record levels, reaching high enough to send little chunks of snow cascading into his boots at every opportunity. His feet throbbed from the cold, and he stopped where he walked. A quick dive into his satchel brought out a waterskin, of which he drank a few thirsty gulps. The one thing about winter he liked was that the arduous weather kept his water a brisk cold. That was one of his strange quirks; he favored cold drinks year-round. He would take an icy wine to drink if he was sitting on the ramparts of some castle, looking at the view during the freezing season rather than a mug of steaming grog. With a sigh, he returned the half-empty waterskin to the satchel and cast his eyes across the grey horizon. As he thought, a snowstorm gradually crawled its way toward him. Maybe he could make it to the nearby village before the storm truly set in. With a few more miles ahead of him, Feral shuddered off the cold and quickened his march through the ivory landscape.
Through a tavern door stumbled a grouchy, near-frozen Feral. Like a wet dog, he shook himself violently, sending shards of ice flying in all directions. And, similar to when a dog shakes itself off next to a group of swimmers, yells of objection were sounded and people made threats while they brushed themselves off. Feral ignored them easily and walked toward the bar, drawing backward his cowl, revealing his red face and crazed eyes. He hated the winter.
“Wine,” he gruffly requested when he had sat himself at the counter. The barkeep obliged, and a tankard of watered-down wine was brought to him. Almost without thinking, Feral brought the mug to his lips, but quickly set it back down.
“It’s too warm,” he said, and the barkeep took the tankard back, and ran to break and icicle from the ice-house behind the warm building. The rather confused (and more than slightly unnerved) barkeep broke the stick of ice on the edge of the metal tankard, and set the larger half in the wine, leaving the top protruding obnoxiously upward like a maypole. Feral was not amused.
He divided the ice up further with a knife once the barkeep left to attend to other tenants, and sipped from it after he let it sit and get cold. He looked through the bar, and almost let his gaze sweep past everybody before returning to his drink. But he stopped. His gaze fell upon someone who was dressed to the utmost to remain hidden. A brown smock, several layers of trousers and a wool hat would have rendered him unnoticed. The marks on his hands were from soot and ashes. This man obviously worked with fire somehow, and the only profession that worked with fire for the span of the entire year was a blacksmith. Feral studied him closely. The man’s hands gingerly handled his steaming mug. A blacksmith couldn’t care less about how hot his drink was. That, and his hands didn’t seem to be calloused or hardened in the least. They were a bit grungy, which was usually enough to convince most, but Feral noted the inconsistency. This was no blacksmith.
King Vincent, the Heart of Iron. The blacksmith was a favorite disguise of his, because he could pull it off fairly well. Feral calmly turned back to the counter. There he was. Perhaps he wouldn’t have to trek all the way to the castle to complete his mission after all. The five leagues lying between would be difficult and long to traverse in the current weather, which only seemed to be getting worse. Here was his target, sitting several steps behind him. He wasn’t surrounded by his royal guard, he had no armor on his neck. He smiled with almost childish relief. A large piece of his job had been emptied of most of its difficulty. A quick dart would relieve the mission. But wait…no, not a dart. That was too obvious. People would suspect foul play immediately. Now, some hemlock in his majesty’s grog would do the trick. Feral nodded to himself, but quickly discarded the idea. How would he get the poison in the king’s mug without him noticing? Feral was great at sneaking, but a confrontation held to high of a risk for being caught. He glanced down the bar and looked at the other men. One was clearly a farmer, another was a stable boy. Two others were both servants to some local vassal out for the evening. Stable boys or farmers weren’t easy to patronize, but servants valued their expensive attire more than most as a symbol of their status and held their lord in high regard. A demeaning insult or telltale splash of wine would set off a heated argument, and maybe a nice brawl. With a sly grin, Feral downed the rest of his wine and stood up, feigning drunkenness as he shakily stumbled toward the other bar goers.
“Good evening, ladies and gentllllenn…” he slurred with a dazed grin, making his way towards his two temporary targets. “ I thought I should tell you...you’ve got somethin…” he hiccuped for added effect, “...somethin on your shirt!”
Then, he set his eyes on a small plate of steaming, salted potatoes in front of one of the servants, and uttered a nigh-comical “Ooh!” before daintily snatching one up. He held it under his nose and sniffed it, and quickly ate it when the servant reached for it. He gave a childish smile of victory, and reached for another, shoving it into the servant’s face.
“You have one too!” he quipped. The servant had had enough. He stood up and took the offending stranger by the collar, jerking him one way. Feral swung his arm in mock alarm, knocking over a tankard of drink on the bar, and ale spilled out across the counter, and onto the lap of its drinker who, until now, had been watching the proceedings with slight amusement.
“‘Ey! Wot are you doin’?!” Shouted the other man as he stood up. The drink was dripping from his lap, and he didn’t look happy about it. Feral started giggling uncontrollably.
”Now why did you go and piss your pants! Ever heard of a privy?” He then hooted loudly, and got a stiff cuff across the face for it. At least he was let go of, and stumbled backward to another table, upturning it’s contents on those seated there. They too got to their feet, and readied themselves for fisticuffs. The blow had stunned Feral, but he cleared his head with a few slow breaths as he lay on the floor, covered in ale and cheap food. When he sat up, there was the fight. Five people went at it violently, skill and knowhow tossed out the window as they punched at each other like animals. Other bar goers tried to break up the melee, but were sucked into it as well, adding to the crescendo. Soon, tankards flew, plates crashed and tables flipped as the entire bar descended to chaos.
Now was Feral’s chance. He abandoned his tipsy facade and darted nimbly between people, neatly dodging fists, elbows and chairs as he made his way toward King Vincent, who was occupying himself with clubbing the occasional attacker. With a swift motion, Feral seized a small dagger from the belt of someone he cared not to know, quickly found its balance, and spun it between his fingers before throwing it in a well-practiced overhand motion.
The gurgling of the dying king was unheard in the loudness of the fight. The knife had struck his throat, severing his jugular. He now laid on the floor, unmoving but still barely alive, eyes wide with panic. Feral sauntered up to him and knelt on one knee.
“It’s nothing personal, trust me,” he reassured the monarch, “but orders are orders, and my masters say you must die,”
Feral wasn’t without morals. Letting anybody suffer a slow death was very arbitrary to his ways, so he swiftly finished the job with a smooth swipe of his wrist, ending the pain of his victim. He then tossed the knife aside, took a sip from a random tankard and pulled the cowl of his cloak over his head before walking, calm and collected, out of the tavern and like a wraith into the stormy night.
This is the first chapter in a developing story that I am writing alongside another talented writer I went to school with.
Be willing to hurt your opponent more than they are willing to hurt you.
Don’t just learn your techniques.
You can fight. That doesn’t mean it’s always necessary.
I’m a Defender. No fear. No weakness.
My first job was doubtless the hardest. That’s how it is for everyone, I guess. Someone’s first go at an assignment of any kind is daunting to them.
But I promptly squelched and nervousness the instant it reared its head. That’s part of my job.
My first location was a nice place called East Los Angeles, right in the middle of the slimy podunk. I had pre-rented a room in some local gang family’s big house. It had been made clear that I was not to be trifled with, under pain of a real nice beatdown. They didn’t believe that I could serve such a described beating, but chose to let me stay anyway. Since they were being paid to offer me room and board, best not bite the hand that feeds you.
My first assignment is what I’m telling you about here.
There’s lots to explain, but I’ll cross those bridges when I get to them.
But here I am, taking to the streets for the first time. I’ve decked out in some loose jeans, a jacket that must have been several sizes too big, and some slightly used sneakers. With that getup, I looked like one of the local punks, which was the image I hoped to cultivate. I’m out here for most of the day, as well as most of the night to try and accomplish my assignment: bring down the newest gang family. It had sprung up a few months before they made their terrifying debut, in which they kidnapped several members of a rival gang and held them hostage before running off with the ransom and killing the hostages, the video of which was shared to stream online. The feat got them to the national level, the story being yelled through every news station on both television and radio, columns written on them from both headlines and stories in the middle of the paper. What they did was a bit imposing, but nothing I hadn’t been trained to handle. But they were willing to kill to get their way. I’d best do the same. That’s part of rule one.
Alright, it's horrible, I know. But it's not my worst.
About once or twice a week while I sweep out the religious studies building just off campus, I come across a spider. Brown ones, black ones, big ones, small ones. They go to that building to find Jesus or just to get away.
One sat and watched me work, sitting relaxed on the tile floor as he passively watched my broom glide back and forth. Maybe he had just had a joint and was just chilling. He listened in on a soliloquy.
Another was asleep when I found him. A small nudge brought him awake and alarmed, and he scrambled away from me. I don't blame them, since I myself feel hostile toward anyone who wakes me up.
Others just vacate the area when they see me. I can't blame them, and I'm getting used to the rejection, but the ones that stay sure are good listeners.
Why I Write
When the day is done, practice reaches it's epiphany, and school is left behind without a second thought. Somehow, a wayward pen shuffles its way through a page or so of trigonometry. Away goes the binder, the pen once again returns to my pocket. There's my day.
Abhorred are those days, so frequent their march makes my life a grey mural of monotony. I scribble stories out in inky black and use emotional paints to fill in the spaces in between. I birth stories from the darkness of trauma and the light of accomplishment.
I am god of my worlds. The love I have for my characters transcends that I have for all else (except perhaps my cat).
The day ends, a story has found life at my hands. I wash the cobwebs from my fingers and hang up the old imagination. All the next day, I live for the writing, for I know the night is young, and before the day ends, I can leave school behind without a second thought, kill my persistent math homework, put up the binder, crack my knuckles and get my hands dirty in writing, smudging my hands in the ink of creation. And I swear, I never wash my hands.
As of six hours ago, the world's air didn't smell of flesh.
My situation is both an extremely lucky one, and simultaneously the least fortunate.
In my profession as a janitor, I work alone for perhaps forty-five minutes at a time. I was in the small building I clean when I heard something thumping on the front window. If I thought I was startled at first, that didn't even compare to the scare I got when I was a few inches from the undead.
I promptly reinforced the entries. And I was also sure to clock out, not that it matters.
I just have custodial equipment to defend myself. Fun.
Update: The phone lines went down a few hours ago. Better prepare for a long night.
When pain is ignored to keep the game alive, game transforms to sport.
Charging up the field, a trio of three sprints like wild stallions across the polished floor, shoes squeaking like angry crickets as they run. The goal is ahead, and the only thing in the sights of their aim. Yet they can still see all.
Kick with your instep. Switch it up. Keep moving forward.
I'm one of the boys running with amazing vigor. I can almost think what my the other two are to do next. I don't know how I see someone coming up behind me to steal the ball, but I switch sides with it before they can. A neat pass to a comrade on my right sends the ball sailing through the posts.
Chapter 1 (exerpt)
I’m here to clean up a bit on the superstition surrounding what I do for a living. My profession isn’t like any others, and you probably haven’t heard of it. But millions are part of the workforce.
Our job entails protecting and comforting. We never are paid. Then, after a few years, we are either reassigned, or are thrown away. Chances are, you have had some like me work for you at one time for another. We are not allowed to go out into the field with anything less than perfect on our record. You would be surprised at how many of us pass the exams perfectly.
Who are we, now?
We’ve been around for centuries, but we got our name fairly recently. And due to industrial advances, there are more kinds of us than ever. Our title derives from a term coined by an American president: Theodore Roosevelt.
You call us Teddy Bears. But we call ourselves Keepers. It rings better, I guess.
Now, I can sense your angst at being drawn into such a childish chronicle, and honestly, I do not blame you. If you are reading this, chances are you have outgrown your Keeper and have either thrown it away or given it to someone else. And our type is not constrained to simple bears anymore, thanks to the afore-mentioned advance in industrial capacity. The workers who make us don’t know of this side of us. Nobody does, except any who have read this.