The Island of Misfit Posts #1: Discouraged by Discouragement

When I sit down to write these posts, I never know what they’ll be about beforehand. It’s a first-thought-that-hits-me-stream-of-consciousness sort of thing. Sometimes they’re on point, other times they meander a bit, but as stated in the About This Blog section, the posts are less about me attempting to appear clever or knowledgeable (what are the odds, really?), and more about getting myself into a proper writing frame of mind with a warm up exercise. Mental calisthenics, if you will.

As you might imagine, it doesn’t always go to plan. Case in point: the post below. Inspired in part by Susannah Breslin’s Forbes article, Why You Shouldn’t Be A Writer, and Martin Levin’s, You Suck And So Does Your Writing–which is more about petty squabbles between notable literary figures (how I would have combined the two ideas is anyone’s guess)–it was meant to be a discouragement piece, you know, separating the wheat from the chaff, and all that, that started out like this:

Of All the Things You Could Do With Your Life, Why On Earth Would You Purposely Choose To Be A Writer?

Don’t worry, it’s not a trick question, but one you should be prepared to ask yourself and answer before undertaking writing in any fashion as a serious profession. Among the more common reasons I’ve come across in my travels are:

1. No commuting and every day is Pajama Friday!

I can’t fault your logic here because commuting is generally a nightmare and what’s better than tooling around your house in a onesie all day long like an agoraphobic superhero? Sadly, it isn’t a good enough reason to want to be a writer, especially since there other telecommuting positions that offer more stability and better chances at becoming a career.

2. What better way is there to make a ton of dough and roll around in my piles of cash?

Well, you could try your hand at playing the lottery or betting the ponies, for starters. Rich writers are the exception to the rule. The majority of people who claim writing as a profession, work their mental fingers to the bone, producing material for years before they even get a glimpse at recognition, let alone a healthy paycheck. Instead of rolling in piles of cash, you’ll most likely be rolling up your coins, praying your landlord accepts pennies for rent.

3. Nothing better than being my own boss with flexible hours!

Flexible hours? Been writing long? Writing is a huge commitment that commandeers your entire life with absolutely no guarantee of any sort of financial gain. As stated earlier, there are other work-from-home opportunities that are far more secure and come equipped with a steady payday. And being your own boss isn’t the sipping Mai Tais under a beach umbrella fantasy you imagine it to be. First off, there’s no one to delegate all the donkey work to, and your brain doesn’t simply punch out when the working day has ended. Writing–and the guilt of not writing–never leaves you in peace until the article/book/screenplay/project has been completed.

4. It would be amazing to see my best-selling book in a bookstore/my script turned into a blockbuster feature film/win the Pulitzer Prize for my groundbreaking article series.

Who wouldn’t want any of those things? While we’re daydreaming, I’d also like to be an astronaut so that I can save the planet from extraterrestrial threats, be the smartest man in any room I’m in so that I can solve all the world’s problems and become Earth President, and build a safe-box time machine–that protects me from any sort of injury–equipped with a high end movie camera in order to jump back and forth in time to make the ultimate series of historical documentaries.

Now that my feet have touched terra firma and I’m once again grounded in reality, I can tell you that while it’s great to dream big, fame is one of the worst reasons to choose writing as a profession.

But the post wasn’t really working for me because I could feel myself getting snarkier as the piece went on, which wasn’t my intent going in. So, I decided to step off my soapbox and kill the post. And there it sat in my trash for days, forgotten like Charlie-In-The-Box, Dolly, Spotted Elephant, and King Moonracer. But it miraculously survived deletion during my numerous trash emptying sessions. This had to be a sign. What sign, I hadn’t the faintest, but I decided to attempt recycling it into a less judgmental, more positive message:

Writers are born critics who will criticize any and everything that crosses their paths, especially fellow writers. They will issue their assessments and commentary with the righteousness of having had their opinions validated by the Mount Horeb burning bush. These are the writers who cut open veins and bleed for the love of the craft, whose skulls ring with haunting voices that cannot be silenced until exorcized onto the page, who believe in their heart of hearts that the only words that deserve to be written are the truths that need to be told.

I can’t lie, sometimes I feel the same way.

But I’m not as bothered by it anymore because I know first hand that the writing process has it’s own way of weeding out the fly-by-night scribblers, posers and pretenders with the obstacles it scatters on the long and winding path to a completed project. Whether your driving force is money, fame. to impress a person/people, burning need, or love of the artform, you will still experience your fair share of procrastination, anxiety, writers block, time crunches, lack of motivation, fear of rejection, judgment of peers, and impatience of selling a piece.

If you can repeatedly bash your head into these walls, get up, dust yourself off and continue to write, who am I to question your motives? That, my friends, is the best I can do fer ya, today.

Sally forth and be writeful.

— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Things Kept Precious

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My mother warned me to guard the things I held precious by keeping them hidden inside me. The only thing I held precious was her and I found it impossible to place her inside my body. I was too young to understand she was talking about love. Too young to save the best parts of my mother’s love in my heart. Too consumed by the hate caused by her leaving me on my own. Too young to accept that death comes to us all.

It was hard to hold onto her love. Hard because I watched her body decay and rot away to nothingness. I watched to see the precious things she kept inside her and where she managed to hide them so I could do the same. I never found them. I watched as I picked vermin from her flesh and fought away carrion from her decaying form, until the day she was unrecognizable to me.

In particular, I watched her heart. Who knew what was inside there but I knew it was fragile because my mother spoke many times about how it had been broken. She said, “Sometimes you have to break a heart to find out how strong it really is.”

But when her heart became visible, I couldn’t see any cracks. I watched it as it bruised like an apple and disintegrated away. Nothing inside it but emptiness. I was hoping to see love—even though I had no idea what love looked like—or at least be privy to some secret that would explain the world to me. I found none of those things.

Her heart was a chamber for maggots. That was what my mother kept precious. Little disgusting creatures that fed off her body. They were everywhere. Stripping my mother of her beauty.

It grew harder to remember her face. I tried to recall the last time I saw her eyes or her smile but that memory was too distant in the past, lost in the forest of forgetfulness.

Occasionally I dreamt of my mother, standing in a room somewhere I had never been but yet felt so familiar to me, her face was a storm. Clouds roiled where features should have been. When she spoke, her voice was a swarm of black bees the drained the life of anything it touched. The bees blotted out the room and ate a pet dog I only had in dreams and never in real life, before coming for me.

I would run from the house and through the trees, down a dirt path that led to a black pond of brackish water. The water called to me and I was torn for the water was frightening, but so too were the bees who devoured trees on their way to eat me.

No real choice at all, I dove into the pond and discovered the water was actually tar and I was being pulled in, just as other creatures foolish enough to make the same mistake, the same fear-based choice as I had.

My nose and mouth filled with hot thick liquid, bitter molasses that scorched my insides, and melted me like butter on the griddle.

I woke alone in the dark, choking for air, my chest weighted with the heaviness of fear. My breathing was a thick, wet noise like someone sloshing through mud — or tar! — and I no longer felt safe in this world, so I did the only thing I could think to do.

I crawled inside the remains of my mother’s body and wrapped her tight around me so that I could be the thing she kept precious.

Sally forth and be keeping things preciousingly writeful.

©2013 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

The Math of the Moment

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There were two things that Evan knew:

  1. Mathematics
  2. He lived the wrong kind of life

The first he had known nearly all his life, from age four, if a proud mother’s braggadocio was to be believed. The second he only recently discovered, when he first laid eyes on The Woman. As was his nature, Evan quickly tabulated the absolute value in his head to assess his chances with her. The figures hadn’t added up.

The Woman, obviously accustomed to being the object of men’s stares, avoided eye contact with every XY chromosome in the room as she stood in the doorway and scanned the tables for a place to sit. There were so many free spaces, Evan hadn’t given the possibility of her settling next to him a second thought… until she did just that.

Suddenly the nearness of her had Evan checking the computations of his existence and wondering how he came to live a life so cruel as to deny him the reality of waking up beside The Woman every single morning. The closer she stepped, the more he realized just how lacking he was. The more he examined himself, the further away he pushed the percentages of the two of them spending the rest of their lives together.

But even though he knew down to his square root that nothing could ever have existed between them, he couldn’t let the thought of her go. He wracked his brain trying to suss out what needed to be done to correct their blaring parities.

What charismatic calculus would he have had to perform in order to make the possibility of a relationship between them a reality? What was he lacking that could have been excavated from the untapped depths of his soul in this limited time they cohabitated at this table, these minutes that were passing far too quickly. that would have given her pause? What prime number would have made her consider the impossible? Convinced her to go against every single internal voice and take a chance on a fractioned man well past his sell-by date? A man who needed her greater than she would ever have needed him?

Instead of coming up with solutions to solve the theorem, he vapor locked. He went to the place where he should have found inspiration and courage and instead stood staring down at a dry well.

If this were a movie, a romantic comedy following a by-the-numbers formula, this would have been their meet cute moment, where though she had no time for him, Evan would somehow have found the nerve to punch above his weight class, as he swung for the fences, until he stumbled upon that one right sentence, quite by accident, that would have opened the door of their budding relationship just a crack.

But this wasn’t a movie in which Evan had access to some writer, a prince of prose, to whip up a witty bit of icebreaking banter, which meant he sat there quiet as a church mouse as the woman of his dreams failed to acknowledge his presence as she sipped her small yet overpriced mall beverage and worked her delicate thumbs across her smartphone keypad.

Perhaps he had approached it wrong. His shyness and lack of confidence in this situation was the problem, but all problems had a solution, so if he somehow broke down the math of the moment, he could not only solve the equation but restructure the formula to his benefit.

And so he began with

The Problem

He was absolutely enchanted by this stranger, who, when she left this table, wouldn’t have known him from Adam due to his insecurities. And while the thought of either tricking or forcing her to have affection for him against her will was a repulsive notion, he wanted to at least put forth the concept of a relationship between them.

The Equation

The left-hand side of the equation needed to describe the geometry of the manifestation of what a man considered love and the lengths he would go through to achieve it. The right-hand side needed to reflect the concomitant swirling curvature of a woman’s nurture and passion weighed against the romanticized notions of love.

Evan pulled a tattered notebook from his backpack and wrote the equation. Front and back on all the blank pages. On the backs of pages containing non-related items. In the margins. On every napkin he laid his hands on. and finally on the table itself.

He wrote and wrote until his brain collapsed under the sheer weight of computations, then he wrote some more. He continued to write until he finally discovered…

The Solution

Evan straightened his back, turned to The Woman, cleared his throat and said in a voice squeakier than he would have liked, “Excuse me, Miss. Hello, my name is Evan.”

©2013 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

No Future In Arguing

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Because of the argument with her mother, Lakshmi wasn’t able to sleep. It happened ten days ago to this very minute and her hatred for her mother hadn’t abated one iota. Truth to tell, she wasn’t able to remember who started the argument or what the initial disagreement was about, but, as with most feuds, it opened a doorway for all the other things, the niggling bits of minutia to spill out and words were exchanged and feeling were hurt on both sides.

Ten days of freezing her mother out. Ten days of refusing to eat or talk or even be in the same room as her mother. Ten nights of lying awake in bed, staring at the headlights of passing cars that trailed rectangles across her ceiling. Lakshmi knew every inch of the ceiling and walls of her room like the back of her hands… which was why she was shocked when her eyes fell upon the crack.

It was beside the mirror that sat atop her chest of drawers, a horizontal crack no longer than a foot in length that looked like a demonic smile. Lakshmi stared at the crack, long and hard, wondering how she had missed something so obvious before… when it blinked. All right, so maybe blinked wasn’t the proper word, but she could have sworn she saw a light flicker from within the crack.

Probably just the wiring, she thought as she pushed a chair against the wall beneath the crack. At night Lakshmi heard mice scurrying between the walls. One of them must have nibbled on a wire and exposed it. She’d have to remember to tell her father in the morning. She was sure it had to be a fire hazard.

Lakshmi stood on the chair and inspected the crack, running her index finger along its jagged yet smooth edge. It was surprisingly cold to the touch and she thought she felt a slight suction… then the flicker again.

This time she was sure she hadn’t imagined it. Lakshmi leaned forward and stared into the crack and was surprised to see something within it. She saw…

Herself.

It was like watching a movie. She watched herself being herself, doing the things she normally did, but not in any day she ever remembered. The images began at a normal pace then sped up to such a degree where to anyone else they would have appeared to be nothing but a blur but Lakshmi was able to follow along because she was somehow connected to them. They were her personal images, of her life and she was living them, retaining the information contained within them.

Her eyes glued to the crack, Lakshmi watched the rest of her life, the entirety of her existence, literally flash before her:

  • Her relationship with her mother falls apart in a series of little spats over the next few years that leads to the big fight when she turns seventeen that causes irreparable damage. That will be the final time the two will ever speak to one another.
  • Her father grows miserable with all the constant fighting, which wears on his soul until he can’t take it anymore. Lakshmi cries uncontrollably the day he finally leaves their home for another woman. She begins smoking to handle the stress.
  • Her dream career of becoming a geophysicist vanishes that day she quits college for a job that allows her to move out of the family home and away from her mother for good.
  • She works so many menial jobs, none of which manages to hold her attention for very long, and slowly saps all the dreams and creativity she holds in reserve. With each successive job, the sheen in her eyes dulls a bit more.
  • As with the job situation, so, too, her love life. Her many attempts at love fail for the same reasons time and time again. Somehow, she becomes relationship poison and seeks out the same.
  • Eventually, her worries and frustrations in finding a mate causes her to settle for a man beneath her standards, a man who adds nothing to her life, a man who also works dead end job after job with no hope of career advancement.
  • Then comes the struggle to save money for secondhand furniture and a used car, and as rents increase, their apartments over the years become smaller and rattier.
  • She cries alone in the bathroom with a pregnancy test showing a positive result.
  • The birth of her daughter, Enid, is agonizing and when it’s done and the baby is placed in her arms, she knows she should feel something, tries to feel love, but the emotions just won’t come.
  • Not long after, she’s pregnant again with a premature boy this time, Jack, and makes the effort to spread the already nonexistent love even thinner.
  • Jack is born sickly and remains that way. Medical bills mount that they’re unable to pay, and her husband comes home later and later complaining of overtime that is never reflected in his paycheck.
  • Fed up, her husband leaves in much the same way that her father did, for another woman, and she now is forced to get a second job to make ends meet.
  • Her already distant relationship with her daughter grows volatile when Enid turns to drugs after running with a group of delinquents.
  • Jack’s condition worsens and neither her husband nor Enid are present at the hospital as he dies.
  • She develops a cough that turns into a hacking fit that turns into lung cancer that kills her a day before her sixty-sixth birthday. And like her son, she, too, dies alone.

Lakshmi thought the images would stop there, but was sadly mistaken. She was actually able to see beyond her own death, where Enid, holding a one-year Narcotics Anonymous recovery coin, arrives at her hospital room moments too late. Too late to apologize, too late to make amends, too late to say “I love you.” And the pain of this sends her running back to a den to score, where a fatal hot dose takes her life.

***

A noise, the sound of wood and plaster breaking in reverse, pulled Lakshmi away from the visions of her future and back into the room with such a quickness that she staggered back, fell off the chair, and hit the hardwood floor with a heavy thud.

A concerned woman’s voice called from outside the room and down the hall. Her mother. The woman she hated mere moments ago and wished all the nastiness a seven-year-old girl’s mind could muster… but now, there was something else. Something she couldn’t quite remember. The images of her future started jumbling inside her head to point they made no sense and turned into so much mental vapor.

Something about her father and her husband leaving? Something about a baby… a girl, or maybe a boy, sick and dying? And a fight, a big fight…

Lakshmi scrambled to her feet and raced out of the door and down the hall as memories evaporated from her mind. There was something she had to do, something before these feelings vanished and she went back to being angry.

Lakshmi burst into her parents room, where her father, just about to fall into a deep sleep, jumped at the girl’s sudden arrival.

Her mother, on the other hand, was fastening her dressing gown and about to investigate the sound from her daughter’s room, when her daughter rushed up, arms flung wide and embraced her.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” Lakshmi sobbed, as the memories of her future disappeared completely.

Her father watched in confusion. Her mother shrugged at him, smiled and stroked her daughter’s hair, cooing that everything will be all right. Everything will be just fine now.

***

In Lakshmi’s room, the crack in the wall, once the length of a wooden school ruler, began to shrink, as the wall knitted itself whole again.

©2013 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Songs As Stories: The Man

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*Inspired by the song “The Man” by Aloe Blacc

In the beginning of what most believed in their heart of hearts to be the End of Days, there was The Distant Signal. It came in the form of a definitive and verified multi-language message broadcast to all the countries of Earth simultaneously.

What should have been a moment of joyous acknowledgment that we were not alone in the universe, was tainted by a subliminal signal that triggered an automatic flight response in all the various and sundry life forms on the planet.

Dubbed The Great Terror by the media, it opened the door to speculation about the global impact alien contact might have on world governments, organized religions, stock markets, and most importantly human existence.

Then came news of the one person on the planet unaffected by the subliminal signal.

His business card was made of carbon-fiber reinforced thermoplastic. Laser etched in red on the back was his phone number, four digits, no area or country code, because it wasn’t needed. The number could be dialed from anywhere in the world, toll-free. The front of the card delivered the most accurate message any business card ever had. It told the bearer exactly who he was in two simple words:

The Man

Normally slang that referred to either the government, an authority in a position of power, or a drug dealer — which he had no issue with, as he had allegedly been all those things in his youth — it currently served as a term of respect and praise.

The Man had no official credit rating, never owned a bank account, and his fingers never knew the texture of cash. His currency was the Boon License, a service performed, payable by a service at his behest.

The Man never advertised his services, and thanks to a universal binary code, he wasn’t searchable on the internet. His legend was viral, spread word of mouth from those who benefited from his services. The downside of this Chinese whispers campaign were all the old wives’ tales that attached themselves to his accomplishments like gossip remoras:

  • He was incapable of telling the truth and he gained supernatural powers by winning a bet with the Devil in a liar’s competition.
  • He thrived on the broken hearts of virgins after he stole the purest form of love from them.
  • He was born without a soul.
  • He was a genetic engineering experiment using stem cell materials that hadn’t been able to be duplicated.
  • He was born with one hundred percent brain capacity and as a result, has all the information stored on every computer and the internet in his brain.
  • He averted World War Three by winning the jackpot in a poker game with the world’s superpowers.

For a person who bartered in boons, how could he resist collecting favors from the entire planet? But when The Man accepted the offer, he scoured governments, both domestic and foreign, for help, with absolutely no success.

Once The Man signed the contract, he was elected to make first contact, and the world leaders resigned from their posts and contingency plans were underway to build underground shelters. He could not find a government, nation, country or individual to stand by his side.

The final extraterrestrial message contained a set of coordinates for the rendezvous point. Although no one would stand by him, he was able to call in several favors to arrange transport to one of the remote volcanic islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, Tristan da Cunha.

The alien armada arrived like a meteor storm, ships of shifting geometrics burned through Earth’s mesosphere and parked themselves in the stratosphere around the entire planet so that they blotted out the sun.

Plunged into darkness, The Man stood his ground as a lone, illuminated craft, smaller than the other ships, descended to the rendezvous point and touched down on the soil light as a feather.

The ship altered its form and peeled itself away from its passenger and repurposed itself into a ramp. The alien glided forward. It existed on the outer fringes of humanoid description but The Man found its features and its form somehow alluring.

The alien handed him a card with strange markings and upon contact with his skin, the card pricked his thumb and took a DNA sample. The markings changed, cycling through alphabets until it hit his native earthbound English. When all the letters were in place, it simply read:

The Woman

The alien smiled.

©2013 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

The Little Green Book: Extraterrestrial Survival on Earth or Staying Alive and Well on an Institutionally Biased Planet

THE LITTLE GREEN BOOK Part 1

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Thank you for purchasing Rin Vagor’s The Little Green Book: Extraterrestrial Survival on Earth or Staying Alive and Well on an Institutionally Biased Planet. This datafile is intended for off-worlders who wish to face the harsh reality of living and dying on planet earth, those who do not want to blind their ocular senses, or cover their auditory faculties, or feel that “It can’t happen to me.”

At the very beginning of the file, you will have noticed a questionnaire. For your own protection, please take a moment to fill in the fields provided. In addition to your Earth information, you should also include:

  • Homeworld Address
  • Homeworld Subspace Frequency
  • Date of Birth/Spawning/Hatching/Other
  • Name/Address/Subspace Frequency of Nearest Homeworld Relative/Friend
  • Blood Type (if applicable)
  • Allergies

***

INTRODUCTION

The tricentennial anniversary of the Roswell Incident has sped up the angst in the planetwide debate concerning beings of extraterrestrial origin and the doubtful security of their right to exist. As it now develops, the extraterrestrial is not as revered as was the case in the days before first contact. Pictures of heroics by Roo’Lau, the Venusian, rising from beneath a ton of human football players after being tackled across the goal line; Miiinrt U, from Antares, dragging his burden of a human baseball team through a World Series; Poo Nebula, native Tenaxian, boxing her way to heavyweight championship; Ylaan, of Nentok IV, who with no arm appendages of any sort, defeated earthly golfers at their own game. They sometimes tempt us to forget how vulnerable the extraterrestrial really is on earth, the so-called shining gem of the cosmos.

We tend to forget the human police officer who sucked thirteen-year-old Jum Bokuur up in a shop vacuum cleaner, because all the officer saw was a purple, oozing mass, unaware that it was the normal, healthy and quite non-lethal Vespurian form. And now, Rin Vagor has invented a survival advisory for extraterrestrials. If her prescriptions succeed, she is entitled to a Nobel Prize in a new category, Extraterrestrial Survival.

It is amazing how little earth’s extremist ecology has changed since the time over fifty years ago when Na Ters confronted the United Nations with his documented book, We Come In Peace. Its graphic depiction of the wholesale slaughter of off-worlders by the human governments illustrated the mortal consequences of an endangered species. The changes have been semantic. It is now benign neglect that human society likes to emphasize. The suicides, murders, drug deaths and other rebuffs are somehow made more subtle and thus less like the government autopsies. Is the rhetoric less cruel? I think not. The law itself, the imagined protector of the defenseless and the downtrodden, bears the blame for extraterrestrial jeopardy.

  • Mr. Justice Lance Hasbrouck was asked by a Martian defendant to appoint counsel for him. The justice, speculating that there was a companion of the defendant who had not been found, said, “There’s another greenie in the woodpile.” Justice Hasbrouck is a devout Roman Catholic.
  • Mr. Justice Donald Franklin, sentencing a human defendant, was asked by counsel to place the man on probation, assuring the justice that his client could be rehabilitated. The judge practically snarled, “How’s he going to be rehabilitated, living in sin with that ET woman?” He posed that question three times in rapid succession.
  • Mr. Justice Thompson advised two Titanide defendants that they would not know the difference between a good lawyer and a quasar.
  • An Andromedan New York University student was pushed into an open manhole for kissing a human male classmate, as they stood in the street near the university. Upon contact with the raw sewage, the student evaporated into an odorless yellow mist.
  • An unemployed Tilosian, faced with a child support order, was told by a human judge to “phone home and have them beam you some money.”
  • A Betelgesan was told by a human judge to stop having mutant children or face castration.

And so it goes, with the scalpel of human society aimed at extraterrestrial testicles.

Extraterrestrials may not try to be heroic and hope to survive. The government uses off-worlders for target practice and they seldom miss. The great wonder is that earthbound extraterrestrials have not practiced undercover guerrilla warfare. Outnumbered and outgunned, any other effort to get even or to avenge off-worlder honor would invite disaster.

The Little Green Book is a reminder of the Survival Commandments we must honor.

Read and remember.

-Speaker Kash Nupil, Proud Plexan

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Free Will

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The column of light extended either way into infinity, so bright as to cut the mind’s eye to even contemplate. It was The Judgment of God, and Xaphan was trapped within it. Pinned in midair, wings spread to their fullest span, arms and legs akimbo like a celestial insect, the apostate angel watched helplessly as the Seven Angels Who Stand Before God hovered, circling him.

“What is my crime, then?” Xaphan asked. “Daring to ask if the design of these heavens we were made to build originated from God, or the vainglorious Viceroy of Heaven?”

Lucifer Morningstar’s countenance, normally bright and a thing of beauty, soured at Xaphan’s words, becoming a dark and heavily shadowed thing, despite the ever-present light.

“Tread careful, creature, for I know your name be jealousy,” Lucifer said through pursed lips. “Though you wear the guise of my brother, still will I smite you.”

“What right have you to question our brother?” said Gabri-el, Ruler of the Cherubim, and the Governor of Eden.

The corners of Xaphan’s mouth curled slightly. “Free will grants me that right. Is that not our entitlement? I have made no secret that I believe this to be Lucifer’s heaven and not God’s own, and I intended to prove my theory.”

“By attempting to set Heaven ablaze?” Lucifer said.

“Attempting? Did it not burn?” Xaphan replied.

“I cannot understand why he would harbor hatred toward the Celestial Choir,” said Micha-el, leader of the Celestial Armies, Angel of Destruction and Vengeance in the name of God.

“Hatred? Xaphan stated that he was only exercising his free will. Do we all not have that option?” said Rapha-el, Guardian of the Tree of Life in Eden, and Chief Ruling Prince of Second Heaven.

“Xaphan’s heart is filled with pride, not hatred,” said Uri-el, Angel Who Watches Over Thunder and Terror, and the Cherub who stands at the Gate of Eden with a fiery sword.

“Be that as it may, Uri-el, his free will was honored when he chose not to assist in the construction of the heavens,” said Ragu-el, Angel of Earth, and keeper of the Trumpet of Ice and Snow.

“Precisely,” said Remi-el, Angel of True Divine Visions. “He had no right to set asunder the fruits of our labor. Xaphan could have exercised his free will in any number of non-destructive forms, such as leaving the celebration, if it offended him so.”

“Perhaps, but did we do our brother a disservice by not opening his opinions to debate?” said Razi-el, Giver of Divine Mysteries.

“And what of God’s will, Razi-el? Lucifer was appointed viceroy by the Almighty! Should Xaphan’s will supercede Morningstar’s own?” Gabri-el looked from face to angelic face.

“Free will is a gift we should not accept lightly,” Micha-el nodded.

“Agreed. There must be rules set in place to govern the use of our free will.”

“And a punishment to be meted out should one of us fail to adhere to the guidelines? I do not agree,” Rapha-el said.

“If we do not make an example of Xaphan, then what keeps the rest of the Choir from repeating his mistake?” Ragu-el asked.

“Mistake?” said Uri-el. “Xaphan made a conscious choice and acted on it! He is our equal in all things! Who are we to judge him?”

“I must agree,” Remi-el added. “Who are we to judge? We are the Shadowside of God. Only God should hold judgment upon the Mal’akh.”

“A good point, which leads to an interesting question: Why has God remained silent and allowed these things to happen?” Razi-el asked.

“Enough!” Lucifer’s tone was a knife. “True, the voice of God has grown silent within me. That is why I have called you together. To decide the fate of Xaphan. The only vote not cast here will be mine. As God is hushed, so too shall I be. Your options are to either: Pardon Xaphan, Strip him of his celestial nature, Imprison him, or End his existence. Cast your ballots.”

Gabri-el was the first to break silence. “Our pardon, Lucifer. Not bearing the mantle of viceroy allows us to forget its burden. Since pardoning Xaphan is out of the question, and the other sentences are too ghastly to imagine, I vote for imprisonment.”

Rapha-el, Uri-el, Ragu-el, Remi-el and Razi-el concurred with the imprisonment vote.

Lucifer turned to Micha-el, “What say you, Micha?”

“I choose none of the options you present, brother. Though I agree an example must be set, I opt to wait until God has spoken,” Micha-el said as he flew away from the table. “Until such time, I will not be party to such gatherings.”

Gabri-el turned to follow. “Micha! Wait–!”

Lucifer, suddenly at Gabri-el’s side, placed a hand on her shoulder, stopping her. “Let him be. Our brother is exercising his free will.”

“Xaphan, you are sentenced to imprisonment on Raquia, the Second Heaven, until the Word of God dictates otherwise. As part of your sentence, you are commanded to construct your own prison by hand in the same manner by which the heaven you destroyed was built.”

Xaphan considered his punishment a long moment before he spoke “What is the definition of Free? Is it having no obligations? And the definition of Will? A disposition to act according to principles? Then does not Free Will mean the freedom to make choices without obligation or divine intervention?”

The Seven could not find fault in his logic.

The column of light melted off Xaphan.

“Thank you, but I decline.” he said politely and flew off.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

I Fell Through Hell

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Because it was bored and had little else to do but support my head while my body shut down to replenish itself, my pillow took advantage of the moment by whispering my destiny in my ear in the dead of night during that flash second of waking from a nightmare, the moment where the line between illusion and reality blurred, when fear tangled around the heart like a sweat-soaked bed sheet. It said:

Heaven holds no place for you.

It spoke to me in English but with a tongue drenched in an accent I was unable to place. Some dead language known only to pillows, I supposed.

My own unique brand of pillow talk first happened when I was a child and in defiance of all the childhood messages that slipped away unremembered, this one had taken root. I had accepted my fate at a tender age and decided to play the hand I was dealt. And after a lifetime spent in disregard of my fellow man and the consequences of my selfish actions as I baby-stepped my way through my sinful prophecy—I slipped and fell…

Down through the frozen landscape of Niflheim, where the branches, bramble and roots of the World Tree, Yggdrasill, beat my face and tore at my skin. And where Hel, daughter of Loki, stood on the Shore of Corpses, petting the head of Nidhogg, the giant snake that fed on the dead

Carried along on the poisonous snake river, Tuoni, I was brought through Tuonela, a place not wholly unlike Earth under the gloomiest conditions, where the maid of Death, Tytti, cast me down further for bringing no provisions as a tribute.

Down further, I was injured whilst falling onto the Chinavat Bridge, which was thinner than a hair, yet sharper than a blade. The twin four-eyed guardian dogs snapped their jaws at me, judging me based the deeds in my life.

The bridge turned on its side, for my bad deeds outweighed the good, and pitched me into the demon-filled pit below, where the demon Vizaresh dragged me into the House of Lies, a place of disgusting filth, where I was served spoiled food and tortured by demons, hundreds in number, each representing a specific sin, before Apaosha, the demon of drought and thirst, and Zairika, the demon that makes poisons, cast me further down.

Through a lake of fire and up against an iron wall where I passed through a series of gates guarded by half-animal, half-human creatures named The Blood-Drinker Who Comes From The Slaughterhouse, and The One Who Eats The Excrement Of His Hindquarters, into Duat where my heart was weighed against a feather and eaten by the demon Ammut. Although horrified at the sight of my heart being eaten, I was fascinated by the sight and wanted to watch but I could not stop myself from falling…

Down through Gehenna, a deep and desolate place in which noxious sulfuric gasses hung in the air and flames continuously burned and rained from the sky into rivers of molten metal and where the followers of Moloch sacrificed children in the great fires. My fingertips clutched for purchase on this foundation but a fell…

Down past the nine-headed hydra, into Tartaros, where I was whipped by Tisiphone as I tumbled deeper into the deep black dungeon full of torture and suffering.

Down through Maharaurava where the serpent demon Ruru tried to eat my flesh.

Through Kumbhipaka where I was nearly boiled in hot oil.

Through Diyu where Yama Loki of Naraka condensed the 96,816 hells into 10 sections the Chamber of Tongue Ripping, The Chamber of Scissors, The Chamber of Iron Cycads, the Chamber of Mirror, Chamber of Steamer, Forest of Copper Column, Mountain of Knives, the Hill of Ice, Cauldron of Boiling Oil, Chamber of Ox, Chamber of Rock, Chamber of Pounding, Pool of Blood, Town of Suicide, Chamber of Dismemberment, Mountain of Flames, Yard of Stone Mill, and Chamber of Saw.

Down through Xibalba, where the lords of the afterlife inflicted various odd forms of torture on me such as causing pus to gush from my body, squeezing me until blood filled my throat and I vomited my organs…

Before being cast even lower into rivers filled with blood, scorpions, and pus, where I cascaded over a waterfall to my final death, crashing into oblivion and shattering into millions of pieces…

Only to wake up and hear my pillow whisper in its thick accent:

Hell holds no place for you.

So, again I lost my footing and fell, through limbo this time, into…

– Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Songs As Stories: A Scrapbook of Daydreams

1 *Inspired by the song “Wild One” by I Am Harlequin

That kind of relationship is doomed before it even begins,” her mother warned. “His type…they can’t be faithful, it isn’t in their genetic makeup.” But Alison paid no heed and fell head first in love with the living embodiment of a daydream.

She thought she’d made the right decision. What did her mother know? And in the beginning, Alison felt vindicated because he was always there for her, never once realizing that was the normal way daydreams functioned, recurring whenever the mind was idle.

The daydream held her in bed and distracted her with his essence so that she drifted off to sleep without the usual brain clutter that triggered her chronic insomnia, and made sure he was the first sight Alison saw when she woke up. He never slept. What use would a daydream have with sleep? He simply watched her and waited until she began her cute pattern of soft snoring, before taking a stroll through her mind.

He never spoke. He preferred instead to flash images in Alison’s mind. Naturally, he knew exactly what he was doing. Knew he owned the keys to her heart and soul and, as often was the case with the person in control within a relationship, he doled out his attention and affection in small doses. She tried, really tried her best not to be greedy and not to demand more but that, like with most things, was easier said than done.

Then one morning, after he laid her head on the pillow to rest the night before, as he had done numerous times before, he was gone. No note that indicated where he was off to or when he would have returned.

Then began the dark times. Seconds, minutes, hours stretched into the forever period of withdrawal, where Alison was crushed beneath the pressure of constant craving, when her heart sat within her chest like so much dead weight.

And after the craving stage had crept along at its snail’s pace, along came the self-examination stage to fill the void. What had she done wrong? Was she too needy? Smothering? And when she grew weary of guessing, of trying to rewrite the past as if that would have somehow altered the present so that he was still here with her, Alison tried to find a place for him in her past. A drawer or compartment where he could have remained tucked away until such time as she was stronger and more capable of dealing with the memory of him.

Forgetting him might have been much easier if not for the images he filled Alison’s head with, the stories weaved through pictures. They remained and were strongest when the dawn approached. That must have been when he left.

When her mother visited, she asked, “Why can’t you look me in the eye?

I don’t want to do the whole I told you so thing, Mom,” Alison replied.

When have I ever done that?

You don’t say the words, but I can see it in your eyes.

That’s a lie and we both know it,” her mother said. “The truth is you don’t respect me, maybe rightfully so.

Respect you? You’re a drunk, Mom. I’m sorry, there’s no other way to say it.” The words were out of Alison’s mouth before she could stop them.

I’m a recovering alcoholic…

Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. I mean, why would I take advice from a woman whose life is a shambles? Your drinking didn’t only wreck your marriage, it destroyed my family! So, how are you wiser than me when it comes to affairs of the heart?

Her mother exhaled slowly. “I understand more than you realize. You think you’re the only one who’s ever gone through what you’re going through, and that’s not necessarily your fault. When you’re young, you always feel that way.

But I’m here to tell you, kiddo, you’re not the first or only person to fall in love with a daydream. Not only did it happen to me, but I convinced him to marry me and we had you.

Dad?

Yeah. You think your father left because I drank, and that’s my fault because I should have explained it to you, but I didn’t know how. The truth is I started drinking when I felt him slipping away. I tried to hold on the best way I knew how but the inherent problem with a daydream, even a recurring one, is that they’re never meant to stay in one place for very long. They’re born to stray.

Oh. Mom… !” Alison hugged her mother as tightly as she could. She hoped somehow her mother could feel just how sorry she was about everything that happened between them over the years.

Realizing what a fool she had been, and instead of living in a past relationship and trying to hold her life together with spit and string, Alison chose to work on rebuilding the relationship with her mother, a woman who was stronger than she ever realized.

And every now and then, when there was that familiar twinge in Alison’s heart, a fast but powerful thought of her wild one, her mother helped her collect the stories in a scrapbook of daydreams. But Alison hadn’t done it for herself, she did it for the little one who would be arriving any day now.

Her daughter deserved to know about her father.

– Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Songs As Stories: Stars Go Blue

When Stars Go Blue

*Inspired by the song “When The Stars Go Blue” by Ryan Adams

It was a secret place, a quarter acre of Eden abandoned and erased from the mind of mankind the instant the original sin was committed, and I had stumbled upon it quite by accident.

No, that was a lie and I promised myself I would not defile the sanctity of the garden if it could be helped.

I was not proud of the actual reason of how I came to be in this place, simply because I was a stalker. In my defense, it was only the once, I hadn’t made a habit of following women around without their knowledge. Just one woman. The one I was currently spying on, crouched here in the bushes amongst the flower blossoms, berries and leaves.

Mari.

Coworkers called her Marionette behind her back and sometimes to her face, passing it off as good-natured teasing. There was nothing good-natured about it. She acquired the nickname because she was a gangly woman who moved about in a jerky fashion, as if the unseen wires that made her move were constantly in a tangle that the puppeteer hadn’t been able to sort.

Mari did as people of her ilk often do, she kept herself to herself, stared at her shoes rather than make eye contact, and accepted all the negativity heaped upon her shoulders with nary a complaint. But she couldn’t hide the fact that she was miserable, just as I couldn’t hide that I was somehow drawn to that misery.

Although I wanted to know her for a while, I was too shy to make an approach. Today, I told myself, would be the day. As I went through my daily grind, I slowly mustered all my courage and screwed it to the sticking place. Ten minutes to quitting time, I marched to Mari’s cubicle, prepared to make my intentions known…

But she wasn’t there.

I searched by the fax machine, in the kitchen near the coffee maker, I even bore the brunt of strange stares when I loitered outside the women’s restroom, but she wasn’t anywhere to be found. Completely and utterly defeated, I grabbed my coat and left for home.

Half a block before the entrance to the subway, something grabbed my attention out the corner of my eye. Across the street, Mari sat on a bench at a bus stop as the 5:17 pulled up. I wanted to run across the street, braving the crosstown traffic and hop on the bus to make my stand. Instead, I froze. All my former courage had long abandoned me.

For the second time today, my heart sank. And for the second time today it did so without merit. The bus pulled away to find Mari still seated. And she sat as bus after bus pulled up and away. She did not read a book. She did not listen to music. She simply sat patiently.

Then when sufficient time had passed, Mari stood and walked away. I couldn’t tell you what possessed me to follow her on the crooked path that weaved through narrow alleyways, towering overpasses, black as pitch underground tunnels. Eventually her journey came to a halt in front of a lot that appeared to have been vacant for centuries.

Mari stood at the perimeter of the lot and at the precise moment the evening woke and forced the daylight into hiding, a door appeared with seven locks. She stood absolutely still and waited. In the newborn evening sky, stars bloomed and seven of them twinkled blue in a sequence that repeated seven times. The locks tumbled one after the other and the door opened slowly.

Mari stepped through the door frame but hadn’t appeared in the lot on the other side. From my vantage point, she simply vanished.

I ran to the door and managed to squeeze through before it shut, but instead of finding myself in the overgrown and refuse-filled lot, I stepped into paradise. My clothes melted from my body and ashamed of my nakedness, I hid in a nearby bush.

In the very center of the garden stood a mammoth tree that bore unrecognizable fruit of various shapes and sizes, the roots of which branched out along the grass and touched two streams on either side, one that appeared to have been made of milk and the other honey.

Standing beside the tree was Mari, naked but no longer that gangly woman who was awkward in her skin and awkward in the world. Here, her jerky movements flowed gracefully, her normally dull and lifeless eyes were polished to a fine shine, and her crooked mouth straightened and nearly split her face in half when she unleashed that radiant smile.

Mari blew a kiss up to the tree and somehow that kiss became a breeze that rustled the leaves which made a sort of melody unlike any I had ever heard. A pure music played by nature itself.

She danced around the tree all night without tiring, in time with the tune, and sang in a voice that was different from her normal mousy tone, stronger now, more confident. And I watched all the sorrow and strife, all the hurt and anger, all that was wrong with her life evaporate from her body.

When she sensed it was time to leave, Mari reached up and plucked the smallest of the fruit from a low hanging branch and dipped it in the stream of honey before washing the meal down with a cupped hand from the stream of milk.

The door reappeared and her clothing was folded neatly in a pile beside it. With each layer she put on, the transformation to her old self, the Mari that people mocked, began.

I thought about following her, but how could I ever leave this place, this patch of perfection? I knew she would be back and the next time I would talk to her, for certain. Until then I was contented to wait until she returned to dance again. I would wait until the stars went blue.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys