Faith in humanity – I wonder if I have too much?

Following is an except from Good News:

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

“This was one of the first regions to dissolve their ban on capital punishment.” God, she made it sound like she was just reporting a fact. “You have executed 73 people in the past twenty years, including six men and three women for trespassing, three men and eight women convicted of adultery—“
     “That’s completely irrelevant,” someone tried to interrupt, but she went on without even pausing.
     “—nine women for prostitution, sixteen men and four women for murder—“
     “Enough!” shouted the first Councilman.
     “—and twenty four people in total for the crime of blasphemy.”

The last few days have had many ups and downs, and I wonder now, examining this piece of writing… 73 executions over 20 years for a village of a few thousand people. Even granting that it would take some time for a region with a long history of never using capital punishment to work up a full head of steam on it, is this too much or too little?

According to public records, Texas has executed 444 people over the past 20 years. The population of Texas is obviously much greater than a single village, and yet arguably, the village has the greater incentive to execute people wantonly, having the advantage of isolation and the privilege of claiming properties left by the deceased.

For some reason, it disturbs me that I am unable to intuit a reasonable number on this.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

Good News (Episode 2) and 24 hours of Bread

Episode 1

Why I’m doing this and how you can help

And just a little something that might help your day (and night) go a little easier

Clap along.

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

——

Well, one human probably wasn’t much of a threat, no matter how bizarre it was that she could be traveling on her own when there are prowlers and dangerous animals in the wilderness. Almost every caravan brought stories of people being attacked by wild animals or having brushes with bandits that they’d never seen coming because they’d let their lamps run low on fuel or their mage hadn’t replenished the magic keeping the caravan and road illuminated. If you’re going to travel alone, as far as I’m concerned, you’d have to be crazy not to at least take a Hellkind horse and be a mage or an accomplished hunter, someone who could defend themselves in a pinch. But here was Katherine, walking to the gates as casually as could be, just like she had no idea how lucky she was to have arrived at all. Frederick and Andrea were already walking to meet her, probably thinking she was seeking assistance for a larger group who hadn’t come into the town’s cavern for whatever reason. I decided I wanted a closer look at the stranger myself.
     I was halfway down the stone ladder before I realized I’d forgotten my bow. I gazed at it, innocently resting against the rail where I’d been standing. Despite having that niggling feeling like something was wrong about this situation, I decided to leave it there. If two fully trained demons couldn’t handle one human, there was probably nothing I could do about it. Besides, carrying a bow to meet this woman just seemed, you know, wrong. I didn’t care if I got chewed out about it later.
     The only thing the spyglass had misled me about as her height. Frederick stood at about six and a half feet, solidly built and as dark of skin as a coal vein; Andrea was a lanky six feet and carried an equally long spear in case of horsemen, and both of them loomed over the woman in a manner that I would have found intimidating, but she seemed blissfully unaware of. She had to crane her neck to smile at them, but smile she did. I noticed she had very pale eyes that she blinked often, preventing me from figuring out if they were blue or grey. They flicked from face to face, taking the three of us in as if searching for something. Again, I swear I saw her eyes give off a multicolored glint as Frederick summoned up an orb of light so we could see her better. I was the only one who didn’t have to look down to see them and for some reason this pleased me.
     She introduced herself as Katherine and assured us that, no, she really was traveling alone and there weren’t others waiting for her. Where had she come from? Originally from Spokane, she replied, smiling as if this was funny for some reason. That set us back a bit. I’d never even heard of Spokane. Where was that, I ventured to ask, and she looked at me and laughed softly—reader, I tell you again, the thoughts that went through my head!—and said that it was about two thousand miles west of here. I’m ashamed that I didn’t stop to think of what that meant, but at the time, all I could do was gape at the matter-of-fact way she said it. I found myself trying to imagine traveling so far and wondered how often she had been on foot, alone, as she was now.
     Bizarre though her story was, there wasn’t any reason for us to turn her away at the gates just yet. No reason that anyone was willing to say out loud, at least. Looking back, I wonder if either of the other two guessed who she was. If they had, would they have said anything? I followed the woman and the two guards inside the gates, hanging back while Frederick and Andrea asked the necessary questions. What had brought her to our little city? She wanted to travel the world. Did that mean she wouldn’t be staying long? No, not long at all, most likely. Was there something about Crossville in particular that had brought her here?
     Katherine looked back over her shoulder at me at that moment and I had the strangest feeling that she wanted me to see the look on her face. I remember it perfectly, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pick apart the layers of emotion in that faint little smile she showed me. Was that sadness, or was she wistful for something? I felt included in a joke that wasn’t funny and which I didn’t understand, but something, maybe my heart, surged at being welcomed into her confidence like this. As our eyes met, something clicked and the world suddenly seemed more… I don’t know… real.
     “I’m looking for people who might be interested in coming with me,” she said at last.

Good News (Episode 1)

As part of my vow to do something to repay the generosity people have shown me already and in hopes of more properly earning any future donations, I have begun writing what will be a series of short stories taking place after the events of my currently untitled book (I lean toward After the End, but still undecided). Some of the content of these stories will allude to events of the book, but details will be vague enough that I wouldn’t worry too much about spoilers.

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

——

She said her name was Katherine, but her mother called her Catriona, her father spelled it Catherine, and her other father sometimes said it was Aikaterine. She said a lot of things like that, talking about having two fathers like it was nothing in the world. That sort of thing makes folks go quiet and look at each other, but she never paid much notice of us when that happened. I think she had better things to do than worry about what people thought about where she came from, things like where she was going and who might come with her, I guess. She told us right up front that she couldn’t stay long. I like to think maybe she was just being polite and she’d planned to pass right on through and never stop. It couldn’t have been a coincidence that she dumped her entourage before she ever got here, like she knew what was going to happen —but I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?
     She walked into town on a day like any other day. We’d heard about her, of course, but it was only rumors by that point, the kind of drivel carried by trader caravans around the cloister. The Council didn’t think it was important enough to mention at any of the last few community suppers, but we heard about her all the same. In a sleepy town like ours, anything interesting gets passed around pretty quickly, and nothing’s more interesting than gossip from faraway places like Tulsa or Kansas. News about a troublemaking woman roving around with a band of misfits, that’s the sort of thing that gets tongues wagging whether you’re man or woman, human or demon. We got ourselves so worked up imagining what she must be like and whether she was real at all that no one recognized her when she walked right in and said hello.
     Okay, that wasn’t quite how it happened. She stopped at the gates like any other traveler and asked to come in, same as anyone else would, only I’ve never seen anyone come walking out of those tunnels without an escort of at least a few hunters and a sorcerer. I had lookout duty at the gate, perched up on a stubby tower with a spyglass so the guards had someone to warn them of strangers approaching from out of the tunnels. Not that we’d had raiders in at least twenty years—my Ma and Pa used to say they’d seen a village get raided when they were younger, but that was before my time—but it never hurt to be right cautious of strangers. I guess that means I saw her first, which I suppose ought to be something special, but I didn’t much think so at the time. Anyway, imagine my surprise when this one little woman comes walking out of the gloom of the tunnel, carrying herself a lantern and not much else, like she wasn’t afraid of anything in the world coming out of the dark and eating her. Normal people just don’t do that. That made me wonder, and a little worried.
     I called down to the guards; I said, “There’s a person coming. Just one, it looks like.” My voice didn’t have very far to carry, so I didn’t have to yell.
     There was a stir of interest under me as the guards moved closer to the tower, trying to get a better look. Frederick, the taller of the two, squinted into the distance. “One? You sure? Sometimes they run on ahead of the caravans—“
     The rest was lost to me as I focused through the lens again. Yes, the woman was alone, and she didn’t have any sort of raggedy quality or fatigue or desperation or any other quality I’d associate with someone who’d been separated from a larger group through misfortune. She looked… well, she looked…
     How can I describe her? I’ve never been really good with words, not like a real writer. I hope someone doesn’t look back on this someday and think it meant anything more than me trying to put my thoughts down on paper while they’re still fresh in my mind. I’ve never been big on the way people put so much stock in the books from the old religions; I can just see someone a few hundred years in the future thinking this old scrap of vellum is some sort of holy scripture. It’s a terrifying thought, but I’m getting away from Katherine.
     Here’s what I saw: A human woman, young, maybe twenty, maybe younger; curly red locks that lifted and bounced healthily as she walked, completely unlike someone who had been on the road for any length of time; a simple tan dress that would have been appropriate for light work or any casual function; a lantern which caught her eyes as she lifted it to snuff the flame, entering the ambient light of the town. Even through the faintly distorted image at the other end of the spyglass, I swore I saw her eyes give off an almost crystalline sparkle in the magical light. Her lips were curiously red and I couldn’t help staring as they curled in a smile. She wet them with her tongue, then did it again. I tore my eyes away from her, blushing uncomfortably.
     I have never had feelings of that sort for any man or woman before, but I swear, reader, for a moment I thought… well, never you mind what I thought!