The future was revealed. I perceived the doom approaching. Though I knew the darkness could be repelled, they would never listen.
To them, I was only a child. But the power of the divine coursed through my veins. Knowledge beyond human capacity boiled inside my brain. I possessed the power of magic.
“I will float into the sky. I will prove my power. Then will you believe?”
I focused on one word. “Love.” Images of soaring, weightlessness, drifting through space.
The earth began to move. Downward.
I lifted my arms and searched the faces below. Mouths agape, arms raised in disbelief, waiting to catch me.
“Through the love in your hearts, you can become like God. But first, you must love one another, feel each other’s pain, share and breathe as one.”
A misty rain, a ray of sunshine and rainbow arc. They believed.
I thought for the longest time. I was comfortable and provided for, though walled-in and without liberty. The chance for some degree of freedom appealed to me, but the risk seemed too severe. And then it occurred to me.
Perhaps the walls were merely a fabrication of my mind.
So I imagined the doors without the walls, and stepped out across the meadow.
In the attic below, the ogre rattled his chains and growled. He was hungry and alone, and his master was late. Finally, the door flew open and in walked his master, Shah.
“Master Shah. Otto hungry!” the ogre snarled.
Shah lowered his hood and took a few steps toward the lowly ogre he named “Otto.”
“I have a surprise for you, my dear Otto.”
Otto jumped and stomped, “Otto LOVE surprise!”
Shah opened the burlap sack and unleashed a nest of two dozen bats into the dimly lit hollow chamber. “If you want to eat, my dear friend, then first you must catch them!” He proceeded to laugh sinisterly as he shuffled out of the room and locked the door behind him.
Otto grimaced and groaned and howled in anger. “Otto no like! Otto no like! Shah!!! Shah!!!!!” He pulled and jerked the chains wildly, causing some of the links to snap. A few more violent yanks and one of his hands was free, then the other. He made quick work of his two leg chains and then started tearing the room apart looking for a weapon.
On the far side wall, he ripped the panel off and uncovered a large silver dagger, one that had been there for ages.
His mind raced with images of murderous vengeance and ripping out organs and body parts. Yes. Yes!!! He would tear Shah apart and rip his heart from his chest while still beating and eat it as Shah died!!!
“Good! Good!!!” Otto jumped up and down on the creaky floor as debris fell from the ceiling.
But first, he was going to, in palindromic rage, stab shahs bats!!!
The vibration of noise and music rattled the walls and knocked his glass off the nightstand, crashing onto the floor. He reached for the largest shard of glass and flung it across the room.
“I hate this damn town.” He collapsed onto the bed, inebriated and maudlin.
His mind was a sloppy mess of irrationality. He felt himself slipping, slipping.
He drifted above his comatose form and weightlessly circled the room. He was free again.
The door burst open and several men entered his room. He zipped right though them as he set himself to soar through the clouds and into the stratosphere. The freedom was exhilarating.
Once he’d ascended above the blue haze of the atmosphere, he noticed the moon off to his right and set his soul in motion, faster than the speed of thought. He dipped beneath the lunar ridges and floated above the surface for two, three, four orbits.
He then turned his attention toward Venus, the bright green jewel of his eye. But just as he set course, he felt himself ratcheted back into his body.
“Welcome back! You gave us quite a scare!”
Hooked up to monitors and drips, he squinted and stared straight into the eyes of a burly paramedic. He couldn’t move his mouth to speak, and his muscles all felt numb. He drifted back off to sleep.
He opened his eyes and saw a radiant blur standing over him. “How long was I out?”
He tried to sit up, but her hand held him in place.
“You’re too groggy right now. Give it a moment.”
He could feel the IV strapped to his wrist, and could vaguely make out the sights and sounds of a hospital room.
“You’re still in recovery.”
He clamped his free hand over his eyes. “Christ. Recovery from what?”
“Well, for starters, you downed a bottle of alprazolam with a bottle of tonic.”
The words festered in his mind for a moment before they began to register. He’d wanted to die. Or get so high he’d leave his body forever. “It was the only way.”
“Only way for what?”
“To leave this town.”
The lady moved in closer to his face and looked him dead in the eyes. “So, how bad do you really want to leave?”
He groaned. “Anything. I don’t ever want to wake again.”
The nurse quietly and deliberately closed the door, locked it shut, and began drawing up a syringe. “Are you sure, Barry? Do you really want to leave forever?”
With all his strength, he let out a resounding, “YESSSS!!!”
She softly drifted over to his side, injected the syringe into his IV line, and held his hand. “Shhhh. It’s going to hurt for one brief moment, and then it will all be over.”
His body began to buck wildly and seize up, and then flopped down, lifelessly.
The code alarm blared and blasted throughout the halls as his soul lifted up and out of the room.
This time, he was definitely going to Venus!
Hand-in-hand they walked among the trees and along a quiet green meadow, resting beneath a weeping willow by the stream. She laid her head on his shoulder and kissed his cheek.
“Thank you for buying me. Sorry we won‘t have more time together.”
He kissed her forehead, held her close, and whispered, “I’ve loved a lifetime from the moment I found you.”
The evening sun settled into dusk. The two forms blurred into one and disappeared into the night.
The screams of the dying echoed off the dead. Pieces of men strewn along the cobbled roads rotted in the scorching sun. Remnants of armor and weaponry littered the grounds. Thousands of Hospitallers and Templars slaughtered en masse.
Three noble knights surveyed the scene from atop their powerful steeds, man and beast radiantly illuminated by the sunlight on their golden plated armor. One by one, they dismounted and investigated the wounded.
“For what cause do you lay dying, my brother?”
“The cross, my Lord. Don’t let us die in vain. Avenge us!”
“No, my brother. For those who die for the cross, there’s no revenge.”
Hours later, the agonized screams were silent. The three knights smeared the blood on their armor and galloped off.
In the early dawn, the Ottomans sounded the alarm. Three silhouettes approached from the distance, and more were sure to follow. The Turks formed their ranks, tens of thousands sprawled across the desert plain. The three knights drew closer and closer, though no one followed.
“Where is their army?” The Ottoman commanders were puzzled. “Three knights against the mightiest army on earth??”
The general studied the three figures through the looking-glass for several minutes, before dropping to his knees. “Oh no. No no no.”
“What is it? What did you see?”
The general was ashen and silent. He took out a small dagger and slit his throat.
Hours later, swarms of buzzards and birds of all kinds descended on the feast.
Not a soul survived.
The elderly couple exited their tiny cottage, walked hand-in-hand amongst the tall hardwoods and followed along the narrow country road. They paused on the bridge, tossed some pebbles into the creek, and continued to the pond swings, where they released hands, sat down, kicked their legs, and became little kids again for one brief moment.
A summer breeze, born between two pressure points and driven by a dream, meandered delicately along the tree-lined rims. Its wind stroked the feathers of finches and dipped in the dew. The lilies swayed in rhythm of each windswept whirl, surrendering petals and stems to the breeze. It gathered its gentle gusts upon a grave, where a girl on her knees prayed for a sign. The breeze brushed along her back and, in the softest of touches, placed a dozen lilies in her hair.
The others gathered around the table, chattering amongst themselves while sorting through the plans.
“These are all splendidly arranged. My complements on your work, Lucifer.”
Lucifer bowed graciously. “My Lord. You are indeed charitable.”
Hundreds of angels and empyreal beings busied themselves with The Plan. Lucifer finished the final touches, and handed it to the Creator.
Seconds later, a bolt of radiance streaked into the oceans. The Plan became life.
Time accelerated, millions of years in a second, billions in a day. The oceans teemed with life.
The bolt of radiance then struck the ground. Moments later, animals and insects of all kinds scurried about.
Lucifer and the seraphs recognized themselves in the creatures of earth; their own faces and features everywhere they gazed. The Plan was perfect.
But this was day five. Day six would change EVERYTHING.
He waited, trembling, for them to call his name. He didn’t want Princess Poodypop to make fun of him.
And, of course, laughter ensued. Hahahaha. “John!” Seriously, what kind of name is that?? Stupid parents!
“Here!” He slumped his head in shame. “Frap! Every single time!!!”
What he did not notice, however, was Princess Poodypop’s delightful gaze as she snookered over and sat next to him.
“I like your name. It’s sooo… cute!” She placed her hand on his shoulder, causing his heart to leap wildly from his chest.
First day at the Atlantian Underwater Moon Academy, and he had already made his mark!
“Um, I like your name too, Princess Poppycock.” He turned ghastly white and winced as if shot by five harpoons. “Poodypop! I meant Poodypop!”
She laughed so forcefully her perfectly tailored red locks flopped over her radiant face. “You are soooo cute!!!”
Confidence restored, he wiped the sweat from his face and relaxed.
After classes, John accompanied the Princess along the Lunar Mare Tunnel, which ran the length of the sea floor, offering picturesque views of moonfish and the dreaded dragonfish of Tranquility Bay.
“So, how long have you been living here underwater on the moon?” Whew, he did it. An ENTIRE sentence! No gaffes! “Smooth, John, smooth!” he thought.
“Um, only a year or so, underwater. But I’ve lived on the moon for several years.”
“I’m originally from Mars,” he shrugged apologetically.
“Don’t worry,” she assured him, “I’m not one of those anti-Mars girls!”
Whew. Good. “Mars is too red,” he paused, and smacked himself in the head. “Frap. Not that there’s anything wrong with red, ‘cause your hair is red…”
“You are SO SILLY!” And with that, Princess Poodypop kissed him right on the lips. Overwhelmed with emotions surging through his body uncontrollably, he fainted.
When he awoke minutes later, her blurry face morphed into the picture of pristine beauty. His heart pounded as though it would smack her in the face any moment.
“I love you, Poppycock,” were the words that escaped his lips, and his brain, before he could do anything to stop them.
She blushed and laughed hysterically. “You are SOOOO SILLY!!!” And once again, a peck on the lips.
At that moment, he realized… he FINALLY had his first Atlantian girlfriend! He instantly conjured up visions of sailing the lunar mares together and deep-mare diving; riding the moonfish side-by-side and holding on tightly as they bucked twenty feet into the air and crashed back into the waves. Why, they could grab a sail barge and circumnavigate the moon, serenaded by a Jovian Chorus, solar wind in their hair….
Nothing else from that moment on mattered anymore. Not the Moon Wars. Not the scary dragonfish or moon dragons which hid in the craters. All he could think about was that SMILE and those lovely locks of red! Oh, and dimples!
John Pickypuss and Pricess Poodypop. Prince and Princess of the Moon. Forever and ever and ever!