World Vision kneels to the Antichrist

So World Vision, a humanitarian aid organization, changed its rules two days ago to allow their company to hire married gay Christians. They already had gay Christians, but specifically forbid married couples because, they argued, marriage was only marriage if sex was involved, and gay people could only be tolerated if they were abstinent.

In light of the inevitable backlash, today they did a 180 and reverted back to the original rules. They then issued a profound apology for the hurt and confusion their decision caused.

The problem is, they were apologizing to the conservative groups who were threatening to pull their support and leave thousands of children without aid. Not the people who genuinely want to do their part as Christians to feed, clothe and care for others. Not the children whose welfare would be put at risk. They apologized to millionaires and gatekeepers who wield extortion as a club to uphold their theological power, their self-granted capacity to determine who is and isn’t Christian.

How do the fruits of these thrice-damned sons of clay taste? Can you see God when you look around the bulk of these arrogant, overfed and unconcerned goats among men who stand defiantly in the face of mirrors?

It’s a small wonder they’re so eager to portray starvation as a temporal suffering, less important than to address eternal matters. These are the descendents of men who told African slaves, “The role of a good Christian is to obey without complaint, to forgive trespass without question, to abstain from any dream of worldliness.” To prop up their own power, vested in them by bloodstained hands, they turned and continue to preach that the only sin which is not forgivable is one against themselves.

Their vision of God, of necessity, is one of hate and exclusion. If it were ever come to pass that they were wrong, that God was inclusive and welcoming, they would have no excuse–NONE–for the harm they have inflicted and allowed to be inflicted over the centuries.

Paradise will be Hell for them.


Eulogy for Fred Phelps

We have learned today via his son, Nate Phelps, that Fred Phelps is in hospice and is expected to pass soon. His family, keeping to their hatred, have prevented any family member who spurned the Westboro Baptist Church’s hateful theology from saying their goodbyes.

I am not one who usually turns to the Bible for comfort, but a verse comes to mind which I wish to share.

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

In the face of such a petty evil as one who knew only contempt for others and preyed upon them in their weakest moments, a call to love Fred Phelps would seem ridiculous. I do not ask for passion. Indeed, I am unable to summon any such thing. I wish I could offer something to ease the many justifiable feelings of those who think of this man and his legacy, but the imminence of his passing leaves me with a hollow feeling and little else. I am not angry or glad, I am tired. I hope that regardless where he goes, a lesson will be learned that this is our eventual fate, each of us, and if love is forgotten more quickly when those who have felt it pass beyond remembrance, we need only remember that hatred endures but is never praised. Better to fade into the long night than to be remembered, nor for our character, but for horrible deeds and incalculable harm.

And so I ask this instead: Do no harm. If we cannot feel joy for his life, then seek no joy in his death. That is love enough. It is perhaps a vain hope, an unfair hope, but hope is what I have.

I hope Fred Phelps steps upon the plains of Paradise and finds himself alone save for those who can educate him. I hope he learns the error of his ways, not as a punitive device, but so that he will know well and truly why his name will live on solely in infamy. I hope that he swiftly learns to regret that, not by ceaseless torture, but by the dawning of newly discovered empathy in his heart. Whether he returns to Earth in some form of reincarnation or remains in Paradise to join others as his enlightenment allows, I hope he turns his efforts to the antithesis of the life he lived on Earth and becomes a blessing upon whatever world in which he lives.

In short, I hope the same thing for Fred Phelps as I do for all evil people – to become good, to reverse course and seek amends, and I hope–have chosen to believe–there is never a point when this is impossible.

I used to have wings

About fifteen years ago, I was introduced to the Otherkin by a good friend from a collaborative writing community I frequented. I was young and slowly piecing together the fact that I wasn’t like most people. I was frequently uncomfortable to be in my own skin. I sometimes stood in the shower and stared at my body, loathing what I saw, every fiber of my being screaming “This isn’t mine! This looks nothing like me!” This was before I was formally educated in psychology and long before I found my way into the LGBT community, so I didn’t have the knowledge or vocabulary that I have today. It took a long time before I realized that I was genderfluid and even longer before someone gave me that word to describe myself.

I say this as a caveat, to make clear that I recognize the fact that I was already dissatisfied with my body before this friend then informed me that I was an Otherkin and that this could only have fed into my desire for an explanation. I was very conflicted over it. I felt like I stood apart from most people and this would have been a very good reason as to why. I still wrestled with the remains of my Christian faith, and this could have shed some light on why I seemed to have such an antagonistic relationship with God. It would have explained why I so often felt like I didn’t belong in this body at all.

The most important distinction with an Otherkin is probably whether or not they actually want to be one — that’s probably the crucial difference between spiritual beliefs and species dysphoria, as a psychological disorder can usually only be diagnosed in the presence of the four Ds: Distress, Danger, Dysfunction and Deviance. To believe one’s self to be (in spirit) another species might be deviant, but by itself won’t necessarily cause any distress or dysfunction, or pose a threat to one’s self or others. If the mind both cannot accept this belief or dismiss it, however, the person could suffer greatly or even become suicidal, satisfying the other categories.

That said, there are Otherkin of many different kinds: elves, fae, dragons, animal people and just plain animals, people of different worlds… and angels. Obviously, I was an angel. (I mean, what else would I be?)

I wish I could convey how much I struggled with the idea. There was a specific angel to which I was identified, and a lot of the lore surrounding that angel sat uncomfortably with me, but I couldn’t dismiss the idea. Whether it was because it fit so neatly with my yearning for an explanation for feeling so different from other people or because there was some merit to the claim remains unknown, but either could have been the reason why it clung to me (if you will forgive me, this scene comes to mind).

I compulsively researched this angel’s background, sifting through ancient scripture and folklore. I’m not sure whether I was looking for something to refute or something that would verify whether my feelings were true. I was disturbed by how often I sided with the angel, who frequently ran afoul of God and was punished in unspeakable ways. Although usually described as the antagonist who rebelled against God and other angels, I found him to be the more sympathetic figure. It was even worse when I came across quotations that seemed like they could have easily been things I might have said which had been distorted by time and translations.

Then there were the encounters.

One night, I reading in a public place to pass the time after an evening class, waiting for my ride home, when a young man I had never met before addressed me. He then asked, “Do you believe in reincarnation? You and I were once companions in another life.” He then gave me a name. This had the makings of a poor pickup attempt, but I recognized the name from my research. I looked it up again when I got home to be sure and confirmed it: this name was often associated with my angel as an alternate name or perhaps a companion occupying a similar sphere of mythology.

I never saw that person again, but there were other incidents which were sometimes just as unnerving.

People with whom I spoke exhibited bizarre, inexplicable behavior. Many would spontaneously begin speaking of things which appeared to shame them, “confessing their sins” as it were, without prompting or encouragement, apparently unaware of doing so. I often found myself able to locate lost items in places I was visiting for the first time. People would often overlook me and be surprised to know I had been there, even when there was no reason for them to have missed my presence in the room. Dogs with no history of wild behavior would bark and howl when they saw me, while cats known to be moody and aloof would purposefully seek out my attention. A hematite crucifix necklace literally fell out of the sky and landed in front of me one day. It survived the impact and I still have it. It has no markings to indicate its origin, although it is clearly man-made.

I seemed to be a magnet for strange activity, and as odd as some of the things I have listed are, there were other events which I hesitate to put into writing simply because they are that unbelievable. Lights turning on and off by themselves, faces which appeared in reflections, fire in the sky — all occurring in the presence of others, who verified that they had seen them happen as well.

At last, like conceding an argument, I had to admit that I was exhausted from wondering all the time while strange things constantly seemed to be happening in my life. I decided that the closest I would ever come to an answer was to be agnostic about it and so I made a kind of mental bargain. I said to myself, “Self, being an angel doesn’t have to mean anything at all. You can just be. So here’s what we’re going to do. You be an angel, and as long as that doesn’t change who you are, we won’t have any problems. Agreed?”

Or something like that.

Sometimes I wonder if there’s a point to bringing it up, which I don’t do often. The explanation is long and adequate. It makes people treat me differently, sometimes poorly. If I prefer my alleged angelic nature not to change anything about me, then why is it important enough to tell people about it in the first place?

Because it’s who I am. Sometimes that’s enough, whether anyone likes it or not.

And now for something completely different

I’ve been working on a post for awhile, but it’s been coming together slowly, hence my recent lack of activity. It’ll be about my experiences with and as an Otherkin. Hopefully it makes for intriguing reading.

At present, I had the notion that I ought to put together a post on a subject which, to my knowledge, almost no one ever talks about. I certainly have a bit of inspiration, being that it’s still ongoing: I’m having a drug trip. I imagine a lot of people have experiences with drugs and there are just as many who will abstain from all use altogether. I don’t want to pass judgment on anyone, as my experience, I suspect, is atypical. I’m writing this as somewhat of an educational piece, though perhaps it will offer some entertainment as well.

Oh, and for the record, I do live in a state where marijuana is legal.

Trigger warning: Drug use, description of hallucinations, complete dissociation from reality.

About a decade ago, I was hanging out with some friends, cruising around rural Michigan and enjoying the ambiance of jovial people laughing and joking amiably with each other, when one of them accidentally passed me a joint. I say “accidentally” because up to that point, I had never expressed any interest in smoking anything. My lungs have never much enjoyed breathing in smoke of any kind and marijuana in particular had a nauseating effect on me. At this time, though, I was feeling curious and a little emboldened, so I took it and had a few drags. The smoke reminded me of what a burning corn cob might smell and taste like. It was very dry and not particularly appealing. It didn’t take effect until well over an hour later when I was on my way home.

Suddenly I felt very disoriented. It seemed as though I were separated from my body by a barrier through which my thoughts and commands could perform osmosis, but not without an extra layer of dislocation being added to everything I thought and did. It was as if I were moving my body with a remote controller, and thinking through text messages. I had a hard time keeping track of where I was and what I was doing. I would have moments of just losing all comprehension of what was going on.

Fortunately, the effects wore off after about half an hour, leaving me none worse for wear. I realized that what I had experienced hadn’t been at all pleasant, certainly none of the things I had ever heard or seen someone else experience, so I decided it had interacted in some strange way with my body chemistry. If I wasn’t actually allergic to marijuana, it at least had effects which I would prefer to avoid. That was a decision I kept up until last night.

A few days ago, my roommate heard through the grapevine that a friend-of-a-friend-of-an-etc. had made cookies using pure hash oil and was giving them away to friends. Said roommate offered to acquire one for the two of us to split. Once again, I was curious, and my prior bad experience seemed long ago and possibly an anomaly. Moreover, I felt like I really needed relaxation. The night before last, I had caught a scent of wood smoke from one of the neighbors’ fireplaces and had a panic attack, which prompted a flashback in the middle of the night and caused me to wake up completely drenched in sweat. With the calming properties of marijuana on my mind, I thought, “Why not. I’ll just try it.”

While playing a puzzle game on the laptop, I ate a little piece of the cookie and settled in to see what would happen. I played for awhile longer, making some decent progress, and began to wonder after about half an hour whether I was actually going to feel anything or not. I didn’t feel particularly relaxed in any special way, but maybe that inability to feel it was part of the effects themselves? I kept playing, and began to realize that I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. It felt like I was having a conversation with someone, but I couldn’t remember having spoken out loud or having heard anything. I played a little more before it dawned on me that I wasn’t able to pay full attention to the game anymore. Instead, I kept imagining vivid scenes and seeing them before my eyes at the same time that I was watching the action on the screen.

It was at about that point that I called for my roommate and said, as clearly as I could, “I’m having a hallucination.” Only my mind insisted that I had actually said “Fragh spetz rillecudon.” And then I was in the bathroom having my very first drug trip.

The symptoms of this trip were highly unpleasant and akin to what I would think disorganized schizophrenia might be like. I will try to break them down and explain how I experienced each one separately.

I had no ability to recall time. From the explanations of my roommate, it seems like I was experiencing time compressed into smaller subjective spans than what objectively taking place, so what seemed like a few seconds to me was actually several minutes at a time. I couldn’t remember ever not having having a trip. I had severe déjà vu, and my attempts to communicate kept being thwarted by the sensation that I had already said it all before. Then, when my roommate would reply, my mind would insist that I had already heard her say such things before. To the best of my knowledge, we were not actually repeating ourselves; I was just unable to properly perceive time.

I was unable to perceive spatial relations properly. When I sat on my bed, it seemed to stretch in both directions for at least another five feet. When I walked down the hall, it felt like I had traversed miles. At one point, I remember looking up into the shower and seeing a wash cloth hanging above, and thinking it was impossible that I could ever hope to reach it. The thought of standing up triggered a fear of heights. Geometry seemed to follow no coherent rules that I could predict. If I closed my eyes, I felt like the world was tilting crazily.

I hallucinated vividly, both internally and externally. Overlapping with reality, things I remembered, imagined, or imagined remembering twisted together into visualizations and mental images which I was unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy. It felt as though I were seeing animations frame by frame, but only every third frame or so was related to reality. The rest was filled by worlds, images, entire histories which were completely alien to me. I was completely unable to concentrate on anything, utterly overloaded with stimuli, all of which insisted it was precisely the way it had always been.

My ability to comprehend language deteriorated significantly. Every thought I had, every way of comprehending what I was seeing and experiencing, was filtered through a now dysfunctional part of my brain which rendered everything into gibberish. Even now, I struggle to elucidate my experiences properly as that part of my psyche has yet to fully recover and renders words incomprehensible, or tries to supply me with words I know to be nonsensical. Combined with my other experiences, this mad gibbering in my mind made it even harder to comprehend what was happening.

I was terrified. Even now, the thought that this won’t stop (it is now almost 24 hours later, including having slept for eight hours) is incredibly disquieting. I was unable to remember a time when I wasn’t hallucinating like this, since any thought of previous experiences was subject to the same lack of temporal cognition and linguistic recognition — in other words, I couldn’t distinguish memories from an ongoing hallucination. Even now, I’m struggling to maintain a coherent thought pattern, although now it feels more like every tenth or so “frame” is missing instead of only getting every third “frame” as reality. At the time, I couldn’t imagine that it was truly ever going to end, or that it hadn’t been this way all along, and my inability to focus on anything enough to keep track of it between so many overlapping layers of nonsensical stimuli was enough to make me physically ill several times.

It’s hard to pick out what was the worst thing about it, but I think being unable to perceive time correctly was near the top. Any given moment felt like the way life had always been and yet also felt like something that had yet to happen. I had continuous, intense déjà vu and yet also had a sense of jamais vu, the state of not recognizing something one has already experienced. What I perceived, including the hallucinations, my mind insisted were happening in real time, had already happened and were being foretold as something I would experience moments before I did. When I tried to latch on to whether or not I was genuinely having precognition, however, I couldn’t identify predictions from things which had already been said — even things I was in the midst of saying.

Illustration of how disorganized my thoughts had become: At one point, I walked out of the bathroom to stand behind the couch in the living room. At the same time, I imagined myself to be a toddler with three eyes pushing its buggy car through a store window. My roommate said something; I heard it as “hruntz, sneh.” A coiled spring of red on a purple background darted around the room. This was the way it had always been. My roommate was going to say, “How are you feeling?” and I had already said “Not well. I can’t. The words aren’t right. I’m seeing two languages.” I couldn’t remember what my mother said. I was a toddler with three eyes. I pushed my buggy back to the bathroom and got sick some more.

Eventually enough of the symptoms subsided, allowing me to lay down without becoming ill again. I slept eight hours away and woke up feeling much more coherent. However, the symptoms hadn’t completely dissipated. Even now, nearly a full day later, I still feel detached from reality, not entirely sure whether my thoughts are real or not. I’m not sure if this is a sensation to which I could become acclimated, since every moment still has a tinge of feeling unique and never before experienced.

I realize I’ve probably repeated myself a few times throughout this rambling explanation, so I hope it turned out coherently enough for everyone to read. Again, I am not making judgment on anyone who has done these drugs, and I recognize that my experience is not what others usually do. It is enough of a unique experience, in fact, that all I want to do is share it.

And hope it ends.

Progress, spirituality and Dance Dance Revolution

I want to apologize for lapsing in my updates. When I wrote my last post, I was still in the process of getting moved into the new house (apartment, actually). I had a tickle in my lungs at the time which turned into a nasty cough, sore throat, thoroughly wrecked constitution and utter lack of energy the moment I finally sat down. I’m now taking lots of vitamins, fluids and exercise in an effort to build myself back up. The temp agency through which I am employed hasn’t yet placed me, so money is gradually becoming a concern again, but I hope for good news soon. In the meantime, as my concentration improves, I’ll be resuming Good News and I hope for that soon as well.

My exercise, for the curious, is Dance Dance Revolution. In the process of moving, I realized that the cement floors of the house and relatively thick walls would let me play it again, pulled it out and tried it — and promptly discovered that my recent experiences in Nebraska weren’t just the machines I was playing on. I’m terrible at it now. I’ve had to build my skills back up and I’m happy to say that I’m no longer failing songs on Light difficulty any longer, although there are many songs I can’t complete on Standard (despite having scores to prove that I once completed them on Heavy). It’s scary to see how I’ve lost coordination, balance, timing, reflexes and stamina over a short period of time and I am now trying to use the game to build these back up.

Meanwhile, my writing hit a stopping point which I think I can now scrabble over (in fact, I just added a little more to the story) and now I’ll be making progress again. Of all things, I was inspired by someone on Slacktivist challenging me on my faith. I once described an odd dream I’d had involving the Rapture and subsequent arrival in Paradise. Over time, this dream has grown to define a branch of my spirituality. As I unpacked more and more about it, I found that if there is a Heaven, then it must be like this. It must be a realm which changes to suit the needs of its people. It must be a realm in which anyone and everyone gains entry. To suggest otherwise isn’t to describe Paradise at all, much less a realm of perfection.

I have chosen to believe my dream was a valid experience representative of an actual place or state of being. It taught me certain things which I consider important, and I have been glad of their reassurance, because I’ve needed it. Between sickness and my uncertain living situation, I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating death and the unpleasant awareness that I will not live forever (although I fully intend to try). While I consider it vanishingly unlikely that I will wind up in any place resembling Hell, I quite certainly do not want to die, not even to return to Paradise. I suppose I could say I don’t want to go there for the same reason I don’t want to leave the United States for a country which treats its citizens better. That reason is difficult to describe adequately, save to say that this is where I am rooted. I will return to Paradise someday, but I’d like to accomplish what I’ve started here, first. Then… we’ll see.

{Preview mode}

The next post I’d like to write should either be about a substantial update on Good News or else finally explaining why it is I claim to be angelic in nature. I’m not sure which is the more intimidating prospect.

Can has home?

Sorry for having dropped off the face of the Earth. A short update- I now have a new home and a job with a temp agency. The Internet connection here is extremely unreliable and I’m still in the process of moving in all my belongings, so I haven’t been at the computer much to work on Good News, but it presently stands at 8059 words, pre-editing.

Update and a piece of bread

Progress on Good News continues. It’s easier to work on it outside than at home, so I haven’t been finishing it as quickly as I’d like, but it’s coming along. Presently, it stands at nine Word pages and 5113 words. I’m thinking it’s going to finish at around 8500 words and I’m planning to see about distributing it for $2.99 USD or thereabouts. The excerpts posted earlier are of the first draft and will not include changes and suggestions made by my editor(s).

Situation update: Going home-hunting Saturday. Things are going to be very tight and unpleasant, but somehow it’ll work out, or so I keep telling myself.

Meanwhile, here’s a song I think serves as a teaser for the larger story to which this serves as a prequel-sequel (possible trigger warning: Implied abuse): Within Temptation – Angels


It’s been a couple of days and I thought I’d reassure everyone that all is as well as it was prior, which is to say, not much has improved, but it hasn’t gotten any worse either. I had a bad night that triggered my PTSD badly enough that I spent the evening under observation, but that’s over and done with and we shan’t speak of it again! Unfortunately, news came to me through the grapevine that a member of my family has fallen extremely ill, having apparently been diagnosed with lung cancer despite never having smoked a day in her life. Prognosis is relatively good.

Good News is progressing and currently stands at 7 pages, 4142 words. I estimate it to be perhaps 75% complete. My current plan is to try and sell it in eBook media as a teaser to the series — say, for $1.99 or so, depending on what kind of cut the publisher wants out of it. I might also try selling through PayPal transactions, if that won’t invalidate other publishing attempts. Will do the research.

Good News (episode 4)

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3

Why I’m doing this and how you can help

I’d say I’m at least 60% of the way done with this now. There will be others featuring Katherine, although I don’t know how many I’m going to post.

One of the places to which I’d applied messaged me back today to confirm that they had received my résumé, so cross your fingers that they call me again.

Creative Commons License
Good News by Samael is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


But even if this was the case, the only person anyone had eyes for was Katherine, and as word spread who she was, people started giving her a piece of their mind, yelling and swearing and saying all sorts of things that I don’t much feel like repeating. It was awful, the things they thought she’d done and I couldn’t help wondering that if they really believed she was so evil, why did they feel safe in saying the things they did? And if she was so evil, why had she come alone, surrendered herself, cooperated with the guards and even then did nothing to defend herself? But in their minds, I suppose, silence was confirmation of guilt and the mere fact of there being a real woman behind the rumors meant that all the rumors had to be equally true. I wish I understood them. All I knew is that their rancor made me sick to my stomach until finally I couldn’t take it anymore and I took a deep breath to shout back at them.
     Katherine’s hand came down around my shoulder. I don’t know how she did it, but somehow she had managed to get me between the guards and I was now walking by her side. I stared at her, now suddenly nose to nose with the source of so much controversy, and all I could see in her eyes— I wish I could name their color, but in my mind’s eye, that color is clear, and I don’t care if that only makes sense to me—was the sense that none of this had come as a surprise to her. She didn’t need me to defend her because nothing they could say was anything she hadn’t heard before, and knew with certainty that she would hear again. The words still hurt, but shouting back at them would be like throwing my weight against the ocean to put a stop to the waves.
     I remember that thought so vividly. To this day, I have no idea what an ocean is.
     “I would welcome your company if you would like to walk with me,” Katherine said to me, and it seemed like everyone had stopped to give us this moment together. I don’t remember if we were still walking or if the crowd was still jeering, but I could hear every word she said. At this close, I could see the light making rainbow flickers dance off her eyes. They weren’t human eyes, but I’d never seen a demon with such coloration either. I couldn’t look away, but I managed to nod, my heart beating so hard that I thought I could almost hear it in my ears.
     It was only after I had agreed that I realized I knew she wanted me to come with her. Until that moment, I had considered myself a tagalong, just waiting for someone to realize I was there and shoo me off. I wasn’t sure how it hadn’t happened already. “They won’t let me come with you,” I protested, even though I had already committed myself. To tell you the truth, reader, I think I was just trying to offer her a chance to tell me to get lost. I was standing between four guards and none of them seemed any wiser, so I think part of me already knew that she was doing something to keep them from noticing us. What that could have been, when demonic magic can’t make someone invisible, I still don’t know.
     Katherine gave me a secretive smile and replied, “ ‘Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the scheming of evildoers, who wet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words from ambush at the blameless.’ “
     I was confused by her answer, but I thought I recognized the quotation. “That’s from the Bible, isn’t it? One of the Psalms?” The words hadn’t been the same, but our pastor had read us the same verses before and I knew there were supposed to be many translations of the Bible.
Katherine nodded slowly, her expression softening. “Yes, beloved—“ Reader! “—though I prefer to leave it unfinished. The world has suffered enough without invoking the visage of the warrior deity again.”

Good News (Episode 3)

Episode 1
Episode 2

Why I’m doing this and how you can help

Didn’t get as much done today as I’d hoped. Stress has a way of making me feel even further out of tune with people and making it harder to access the part of my brain that relates to them in a way that lets me write. I got a few paragraphs, though, and although I write by process of discovery, I have a better idea of where this is going and how it’ll end.

Katherine is an unusual character in that while this anthology will revolve around her, the stories might never actually show her perspective, instead focusing on the perspective of characters affected by her presence. As you’ll see, she seems to have written herself as having an ability that is rather meaningful to someone like me.

As usual, comments and criticism are welcome and feedback may be implemented in the paper copy.

Creative Commons License
Good News by Samael is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


There was a pause as we collectively realized that Katherine had fully intended this response to be read into as significant. I think it dawned on me that she already had someone in mind at the same time the guards realized who she was. Everyone, myself included, tried to talk all at once and the resulting clamor cowed me to silence, a fact that did nothing to diminish the accusations and demands being hurled in Katherine’s direction. You have to understand, none of us knew anything about her other than the rumors, and the rumors said a lot of nasty things, like that she had orchestrated the destruction of at least one village and stolen away the children from many more, that she was worshiped as a goddess by a fanatic cult following, that she wanted to destroy our very way of life, that she was actually a demon who only looked human and she had magic like nothing anyone had ever seen, that she was the cause of all the chaos a couple of decades ago. We’d imagined some sort of brigand leader, not this short, soft-spoken, smiling young woman who even now weathered the invectives spat in her direction.
     I had never considered the people of Crossville to be so fearful of outsiders until that moment. Standing there, half-wishing I could apologize and half-wishing I could just scurry away, I was suddenly embarrassed for my people. At the time, I didn’t even understand why they were reacting to her like this. Even supposing she was everything we’d heard, she had delivered herself into our hands and we could easily hold her while the Council other towns and villages to verify her guilt. There were ways we could stop even demons from escaping or using their magic, and she didn’t look like a demon to me. What harm could she do?
     Eventually the others must have reached the same conclusion, which was good, because the shouting had drawn a lot of attention and we had ourselves a good-sized crowd watching now, including several guards who were thinking God-knows-what about two guards yelling at a stranger who was doing nothing in her own defense. Maybe they pieced it together on their own, but it wasn’t long before Katherine was being escorted to the Council’s chambers. Barely more than a bystander now, the flow of pedestrians squeezed me into their wake and I found myself following the procession. I reckoned I wouldn’t get very far, but if I could, I wanted to see how this all played out. I thought briefly of the gates, but it looked like Frederick and Andrea were returning to their stations and I wanted nothing to do with them.
     Now, I don’t know how it’s done in other towns and villages, but our Council chambers are right smack in the middle of town, and that means it didn’t take long before news swept the town that the mysterious woman had been “captured” and everyone had dropped whatever they were doing to come and see her being led to her fate. I followed behind the woman and her four armed escorts, feeling out of place and increasingly surprised that no one had yet seemed to notice me. I didn’t feel inconspicuous. In fact, I felt like I was still being watched in a way I’d never been before, as if there were now some huge, invisible audience to my every action, and it made me nervous and self-conscious. This probably sounds like the ravings of someone deeply disturbed, I imagine. Reader, I tell you, I had never felt more clear-headed in my life. I didn’t know what she had done to me, but I hadn’t broken from reality. If anything, I think I was more aware of reality than ever before and the reverse felt true as well.