Bonus Poem Double Feature: Part 2- Futility

Vigilante,
Closing in on a candlelight vigil,
spies the masked villain,
waiting in the wings for his next victim,
and so strikes with the power of voice,
until fear eviscerates the villain’s volition.

Meanwhile,
across a scarred city in moonlight,
is a deranged would-be protector-man,
whose only intention is that of the crime of murder.
After, he’ll hide behind a shield of metal,
that prompts sounds of mangled meat.

Futility,
is seen through the looking glass of fear,
where it is easy to mistake happenstance for fate,
but reality is Ralph, and harsh and frank,
and so long as we don’t allow ourselves to, we’ll never forget,
that there is no such thing, and thus our own futures formulate.

Speaking,
will forever be the path of sustenance,
as long as our reality is that of society.
We may remain in the din but reign in the silence,
for our hearts beat truest when in solace,
may they forever then, find written words for serene survival.

Bonus Poem Double Feature: Part 1- We’ll Rise as One

Sit upon a throne,
and taste the power.
Never atone,
be forced to cower.

Trampled underfoot,
we rise as one.
Whether in silence,
or loud as a gun.

Tell your lies,
and pull your strings,
for we despise,
unnatural things.

But sooner or later,
we’ll rise as one,
see through your smoke-screen
and your illusion.

Backed by hate,
and paper greed,
you deflate,
when faced with need

This world is ours.
We and it are one.
You will fade,
like the setting sun.

Opiate the masses,
with your vile succor,
separate the classes,
and rejoice with liquor.

But never forget,
we’ll rise as one,
against your kind’s regime,
forever, until we’ve won.

Bonus Short Story: The God Damned Human Element

A deep subwoofer thumped a beat that rattled the crowd’s teeth. It made them all but deaf to the world around them. Combined with the pulsing lights and erratic muscle spasms most called dancing, it wasn’t difficult to understand why sharks and adrenaline junkies sought the type of places like this. The entire crowd undulated with a hypnotic, sexual rhythm, as though some lustful creature in a different universe altogether. The X and coke didn’t hurt the xenoic aspirations either. It was as much a given that spaced-out face-fucking was taking place as it was that someone would wake up regretting it the next morning.

In the middle of it all was Hailey Russell, part-time drug-dealer, full-time club owner. She’d been one of the first to carve herself a place from the Awakening’s rubble. Once a Sleeper, she’d run net-casinos through countless shifting proxies. They racked up all forms into online chips and credits from poker tourneys to slot machines. If it weren’t for the damned Awakening, Hailey would still be one of the richest people in the world– or at least Tokyo.

Instead, she was middle of the food-chain. Those that had brought about the Awakening, a nameless group of vigilantes with more swords and balls than brains, were undoubtedly at the top. Even fewer people realized that than knew of their existence, but it remained true all the same. They’d set themselves up right before the fall of civilization, and their elimination of the so-called Collective; a group who’d supposedly run the world.

To Hailey, it was a bullshit line from bullshit liars.

Like most Awakened ex-pats, she knew the world outside ran differently than the one inside. That knowledge alone had given her the club, the connections, even her take-no-shit attitude. The net though, had been a godsend. People like her didn’t fit into “normal society.” They made their own rules, were ruthless in pursuit of credits. After the Awakening, the flux-state forced upon the world had there wasn’t a society so much as tribal cliques. With most cliques’ home’s– the net– gone, society was forced remold itself– was still doing so.

So Hailey and others like her did what they did best; set up shop, and catered to clientele looking for whatever they could provide. In most cases, the best sellers were escapes from reality. In Tokyo especially, it was drugs and sex. The city was rampant with destitution, and most people in the club owned only one set of clothes more than they were wearing, and were certain to lose half their wardrobe over the night. Hailey’s job was to ensure that happened and she was damned good at it.

She leaned over a cat-walk railing on the club’s second floor. Somewhere to her left, one of the girls whoring for money was just barely audible over the thumping bass. She’d been fucking her brains out for near-on three hours. Everyone in the VIP section had taken her for a ride, one right after the other. Hailey wasn’t any different– or at least, wouldn’t have been given she were lower on the food chain. Money was power, and selling her body was the easiest dollar a girl’d make nowadays.

Hailey’s eyes scanned the crowd that ground and writhed against one another. Peaking X so prevalent it tainted the sweaty air. Ushers passed out free bottles of water as they palmed cred-chips in exchange for X-tabs, nitrous-poppers, and eight-balls. A few men and women looked ready to spaz out completely. A few more straight-edged wall-flowers huddled in shadows, probably drug in by their girlfriends or boyfriends looking for a fix. No doubt the poor shits would be single again in the morning, or swapping spit from mouths that had been sucking strange cocks or tonguing foreign muff– maybe both.

Hailey smiled at the thought; it was pure anarchy. There was no room for the “human element.” At least not the one that people thought of usually. Instead it was the reptilian brain that lusted for every known drug, synthetic or otherwise, that allowed for greater pleasure. She hated the other human element– the touchy-feely bullshit about honor and love and school-girls that weren’t being actively sodomized. That bullshit had cost her the net, and more money and power than most dreamed of. Everything she owned now was physical, credits a worthless means to an end. Money was a middle man between her and the things she’d use to rebuild her power’s foundation. Whether formed of X-tabs, sound systems, synth-ahol, or old-fashioned whores, she wasn’t going to let even the smallest iota of power slip past.

She turned from the anarchy of the dance-floor and the VIP-whore’s latest orgasm, for her sound-proofed office. It sat along the club’s rear-wall, shades drawn closed on a window that watched lines of minors with fake-ids.

The office was a quiet refuge in a haven of chaos. Only the lowest thumps made any ingress, barely audible as her heels clicked for the seat behind her desk. She snorted a line off a sterling-silver tray. Her heart skipped beats from the rush while her groin tingled. She loose a heavy sigh, laid her head back against the chair-back, and entertained the idea of heading down stairs to pick up one of the wallflowers and popping their cherry.

She resolved to think on it, opened her eyes to a small movement ahead. Her reflexes snapped her upright. The scarred face of a man she knew and loathed appeared.Yang-Lee’s dual katanas were sheathed, a better sign than his presence alone. Unlike her, he was a Tokyo native, one of the few directly responsible for the Awakening. Apart from being one of the nameless order, he was also a cut-throat bastard with delusions of authority. Everything from his rigid spine to the slight stretch of his scarred face said he held himself above Hailey and her club.

She blinked hard to keep the coke at bay, “The fuck d’you want, Lee?”

His jaw was tighter than usual, not a good sign. “Rachel told you to close up shop, Hailey.”

Hailey cocked a smug grin, “Dahl can slurp on my cunt if she thinks she’s gonna’ take anymore of my money.” She fingered a button on the arm of her chair, “And you can tell her I said that yourself.”

Two large men appeared behind Yang-Lee, wider than brick shit-houses and thick as steel. One of them put a hand to Yang’s shoulder.

He cocked his head slightly to one side, “If you wish to retain use of that hand, I would remove it. Now.” Hailey’s eye twitched. She gave a nod and the man backed off. “Wise.”

Hailey’s eyes sharped with ice, “If Dahl wants a war, I’m more than willing to commit to it. Otherwise, fuck off and don’t come back.”

Yang-Lee remained in place, his posture unaffected, “A war suits no-one’s agenda.”

“Says a coward that know’s he’ll lose,” Hailey said. She pushed up from her chair, crossed the room to lean in on him at nose-length, “If you thought the Yakuza’s remnants were hard, you’re not even prepared for me.”

A lone corner of a scarred eye tightened, “You do recall, Hailey, the Yakuza no longer exist because we will it so.” A corner of her mouth lifted in a snarl. “We lost not a single man in that war. Think. Accept that you only remain here because we do not will it otherwise. Do not give us reason to feel differently.”

She grit her teeth, “Get. The fuck. Out of my club.”

Yang-Lee didn’t flinch. There was a flash of hands and steel. Hailey stumbled back, fell to her ass, back against her desk. Her vision focused in time to see Lee’s dual Katanas withdraw from her dead guards. He rounded, approached her with shadowy features. He put the bloody tip of a blade beneath her chin, lifted it gently.

His voice was calm, quiet, “There is no need for war when our only conflict is with you. We will simply eliminate the problem. Consider this your final warning; stop poisoning our city, or we will ensure your end is swifter than theirs.”

Yang-Lee stepped away, blades whirling. They threw droplets of blood across the room, returned to their sheathes. The door opened to the momentary sounds of sex-driven rhythms then went quiet again. Hailey heaved a terrified breath. She’d have pissed herself were it not for the thousand-cred pants she wore. She pulled herself up along the desk’s edge with shaky hands.

The god damned human element had won out again. It always did in the end; fight or flight, terror and fear– the manifestations of that stupid reptilian brain she so heavily relied on. She hated the fucking thing, both her greatest asset and worst enemy. She stamped a foot against the floor with a loud “fuck” that cresendoed into a growl. The god damned human element always won.

Bonus Short Story: The Wound Thus Healed

A great sickness ravaged a group of tribals in the middle of an angry winter. Each day that the men rose to hunt game, they returned later, most often in fewer numbers. The women would leave to gather what few nuts and berries still grew in the freezing temperatures. At least one or two would not return, their bounties lost with them. The few that managed to survive both parties, would end up confined to a pair of huts, the fires in their centers stoked by the tribe’s Shaman.

He wore a garb of animal furs, white tattoos across his face and body, and carried a walking stick to aide his hobbled gait. Each morning and night he would stand beside the beds of the ill and dying, chanting his healing magics with mantras from the back of his throat. His two apprentices would remain beside him, eyes cast downward in prayer as the guttural sounds billowed robustly over distant screams from the wind. Even so, his power was not great enough, and none of his sparse humors or poultices seemed to help.

He was forced to make a trek in search of aid, leave his apprentices to observe the rituals. Through the driving winds and snow, he planted each step with unshakable faith, determination. First, to the North, to seek the spirit of the mountain and plead with it for guidance and mercy. The mountain was high, had taken the lives of many men and women in his lifetime alone. Like his people, he knew it had a wrath and beauty that entwined in one another, was as unshakable as his own determination to find a cure.

He stood at the foot of the mountain, prayed in silence for the Great Mountain Spirit to hear him. It did not reply. Such was the nature of it that many times the mountain was spiteful toward man. The Shaman could do little more than turn away after a day’s prayers, ready to weep at the losses his people suffered. He collected what few herbs and roots were to be found at the Mountain’s feet, grateful for what little the blessing the spirit had bestowed in the lateness of the season.

He turned next for the East, trekked through the forests filled with deer, rabbits, and the occasional wolf. In the distance, each of their heads rose at him in time. The deer’s eyes were frightful. The rabbit’s spine was cowardly. The wolf licked its lips with a sniff of the air. Still not one of them found him of interest, not even enough to run from. So rotten were the stenches of sickness and death on him that even the wolf turned its eyes away in respect. The Shaman was grateful that the forest had let him pass unhindered, unharmed. His people needed him, would not survive without their Shaman’s eventual return.

The Shaman then reached the hills, where even in the gray of winter the highest peaks graced the sky with a serene bliss. Upon the highest hill, he planted his staff and knelt to pray once more. This time, he pled with the sky to repeal its harsh proclamation of winter to lessen the people’s suffering, prevent the rest of the hunters and gatherers from contracting the sickness in the cold. Again there was no reply– and this time neither herbs nor roots. Still, he thanked the sky for its past blessings, and left.

He trekked back Westward, through the forests. The animals were nowhere to be found. He found no solace in the fact, but still thanked forest for allowing him to pass unharmed once more. Beyond it, he continued West, for a river that ran even in the harshness of the winter. He followed its winding pathways to a clearing where stones were laid out for tribal meetings. In their center, her sat to face the river, and prayed that the Great River Spirit once more nourish his people with life-giving water. In it, he asked for there to be something which might heal the sick, dying. He drank of the river only to sense that his prayers had once more gone unanswered.

He wept at the river’s edge.

All of the Great Spirits had abandoned them, unwilling to aid them through the harshest winter they cast upon the tribe. Though the Shaman’s people revered him as a great healer, and master of the white-magics, he knew it to be merely the concoctions created from the blessings of these great spirits. His only magic was that which allowed him to keep the secret confined to himself and his apprentices.

When he rose from the river’s edge, he trekked back eastward only to stop where his three sets of tracks led from the mountain, the forest and hills, and the running river. There was but one pathway left to him; the South, past his own people and toward those with whom they had so often warred. Were he not in such dire need, he might have never considered it. After all, they were usually hostile, and with good reason. Were he to fall at seeking respite, with him might go any hope his tribe had. He could not bear to think of the ills that would be suffered without him. But neither could he bare to watch his people die knowing he had not done all he could.

He walked South, skirted the tribe’s edge so that they might not have the moment of false-hopes his supposed return would bring. His path continued away from his village toward his rivals’. At its edge were no guards. Even in the season it was unusual. The Shaman’s tribe had no guards posted either, but only as a result of the sickness that ravaged it. He continued into the village’s interior and found their people, like his, scattered in states of sickness. The ill, dying, and dead told a similar story to that of the Shaman’s village. The sickness was here too.

He entered the hut of the black-tattooed tribal Shaman that had, for so long, been his rival. Like himself, the other man had healed the wounds of more than a few of the injured in their fighting. He was as competent as the white-tattooed Shaman himself.

He found the black-tattooed Shaman tending to his people as he had, waited beside the fire for the guttural chants and mantras to end. Then, with a swivel, the black-tattooed Shaman met the other’s eyes over the dance of a fire between them.

“It is here as well,” the first Shaman said. The second gave a nod. The first spoke again, “I have just been to ask the Great Spirits for aid. The Mountain, Sky, and River do not reply.”

The second Shaman responded, “I too have spoken with them, been refused replies as you.”

“They are angry then,” the first Shaman surmised. Again the second nodded.

Then, with a small gesture, the second Shaman drew the first to his side, then lowered his head to pray. Unsure of his intentions, the first also prayed– if only to show his own, peaceful intentions. The dual guttural sounds synchronized in harmony over the pain of the afflicted. For many hours they chanted their prayers and mantras, neither Shaman certain of why the other kept their peaceful bent.

It was late in the evening, after the sun had sunk and the stars rose, that the first man rose from his death-bed. The black-tattooed Shaman’s-apprentices made sounds of surprise, shock, leapt back with a start. The first Shaman opened his eyes, though he would not stop his chants, to see something miraculous: The man lived. He had been near death, drawing his last breaths when the white-tattooed Shaman entered the hut. It was miraculous the man had lived this long. That he now stood beside the bed to thank the Shamans and weep, was unbelievable. Still the Shamans prayed, chanted, heads bowed and eyes once more closed.

In time, each of the afflicted once more re-took their feet, no longer ill and now reinvigorated. When the Black-tattooed Shaman’s village was cured, he followed the other back to his village. As before, they took a place in the hut where the worst of the sick and dying were held. It was not long after, that they too, were all healed. Both men thanked one another after the last of the sick once more returned to their families. The white-tattooed Shaman then asked of the second what he believed had changed the Spirits’ minds.

The black-tattooed Shaman put a hand to his shoulder, his eyes and voice level, “The Great Spirits were angry… with us. For all the pain that our peoples have caused one another.”

The white-tattooed Shaman understood, “And it was our penance to seek brotherhood in one another if we wished to heal our sick and dying.”

The second Shaman gave a nod, “We are stronger together, the Spirits know–” he put a closed fist over his heart. “Brother.”

The first Shaman bowed his head, clenched a fist over his heart in turn. The Great Spirits did not wish to spite either tribe, but rather bring them together the only way they could: through their medicine men. In healing the sick, they too healed the wounds that had separated brother from brother, sister from sister, family and friend alike. The wound thus healed, a new era of peace and cooperation could begin.